Free Concerts & Costly Consequences

15 October 2010

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (if you’re not, what’s keeping you? – a list of reasons you should are the post-script to this post) know that I spent a decent amount of my Tuesday afternoon listening to a homeless man play trumpet. I was just sitting outside one of my usual coffee-haunts when out of nowhere the steady hum of the urban landscape was delightfully, amazingly pierced by the wail of a horn playing Giant Steps. My musician friends tell me that playing the lead for a saxophone driven piece on a trumpet is no easy feat.

I was transfixed from the very beginning of the familiar opening phrase. Before he had finished that musical introduction, I was so impressed that I went to the ATM so could drop a twenty spot on him. I wrote then that he was simultaneously “lifting my spirits while breaking my heart.” I don’t know if I’ve ever penned truer words. This man – who I presumed to be homeless because of his attire and the bags that carried too many possessions – infused each note with a sadness that I can only describe as haunting, yet played so beautifully that I was simply mesmerized.

My favorite versions of our National Anthem are the superlatively soulful offering from Marvin Gaye, and the unquestioned genius of Jimi Hendrix’s left-handed guitar. This homeless man followed Giant Steps with a rendition that became number three. Perhaps it is the heart-wrenching poignancy of a man who’s country may have failed him having the ability to play Our Song, or just my own patriotism being stirred, but I stood to listen because I didn’t know what else to do.

This homeless virtuoso returned to Coltrane with Niama, but he immediately and seamlessly transitioned into a playful version of Pretty Woman when a striking brunette came into view, and just as easily went back to the jazz ballad without a breath. I wanted to applaud just like I would any seemingly impossible bridge at any ordinary concert.

The Prince classic Kiss was interrupted by the vulgarity of car horns from the hands of impatient drivers. Ordinarily I glare at the offending vehicles for interrupting solitude for the sake of their self-absorption and wish the DC Police would enforce the law against non-emergent uses of the horn. That day I wanted them arrested for this crime against civility and music.

For 30 minutes, I needed to go to the wash-closet – I held it. I wasn’t going to miss a single note of Kinda Blue, Sir Duke, Girl from Impanema, or what proved to be the closing number, Fly Me to the Moon.

I was slightly miffed with the people who didn’t find something in their pockets to give this man, but in a tough economy, I gave them all the benefit of the doubt. I was out-right angry, however, with the people that didn’t pause to acknowledge the beauty of the moment; and I was plain furious at the people who hurriedly passed with cellphones against one ear and a finger to the other as if this was some sort of inconvenience rather than one of the incredible bonuses of urban life.

Most of my scorn was reserved for our country – not for the predicament of this one homeless man, who knows what he’s done to arrive here.  When the wealthiest nation in the world has allowed homelessness to reach epidemic proportions, we deserve the scorn. I rarely talk politics in this space, and this will not be an exception. As much as homelessness can be a political-football, it is not a political issue. This is a question of our very humanity.

How is this not a national embarassment? How is this staggeringly large problem not a clarion call to action? How can we even consider the concept of American Exceptionalism without addressing this festering sore on the body of our compassion? Homelessness is about two heartbeats away from catastrophic proportions, yet somehow, the country that invented the internet, placed a man on the moon, and is so proud of its greatness is largely, consistently ignoring it.

 

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Post-script / A Whole New Post – Just call It a Twofer:

Reasons to Follow Me on Twitter / How I (the reluctant Twitter) Think the Medium Should Be Used

  • I will only tweet that which I consider to be truly funny, important, poignant, curious, interesting, etc. In other words, I actively avoid the banal, the vapid, the over-sharing of the aforementioned.
  • The most tweets I have ever sent during a single day is seven – not to diss the more frequent tweeters, but I will never send eight tweets on the same subject that should probably have been combined into one blog post.
  • I do not link my tweets to FourSquare (maybe a valid use for some – helpful in knowing which places to avoid) so you won’t learn through my feed that I am randomly sitting at some coffee-haunt/bar/Metro Station/Ass Waxing shop.
  • I refuse to abuse the English language through annoying (to this Luddite) abbreviations.

And a few of my favorites tweets that you’re clearly missing and you’re life would be all the richer if you saw (ok, not really, but just follow me anyway):

  • if you’re seeing this, you’re not the duplicitous harpy so incapable of decency that she’s no longer welcome to my scotch or tweets#blocked
  • Only in 2010 would a “pre-dating” agreement contain a clause agreeing to joint custody of a bar; in other news, yes, I’m seeing someone now.
  • me: howzabout we watch baseball and drink wine while I condescendingly explain the game to you? her: sounds lovely.#Shegetsmyjokes #smitten
  • With the week I’ve had, it’s fitting that I’d be out of cream for my coffee too. With the week I’ve had , it’s ok to use Baileys instead.
  • I know that she lacks both the physical and cognitive dexterity for it to have been intentional, but I think a 1yo just gave me the finger.
  • Dear Food Network, I’d rather eat Top Ramen for a week than watch a SemiHomemade marathon with that hair-twirling fraud Sandra Lee.
  • her: whatcha doing tonight; me: drinking with a woman of loose morals and questionable character; her: so clearly every pot does have a lid
  • buckets of rain have me stranded in a bar. thank you, mother nature, how’d you know I needed a beer?
  • From a Craigslist post: put the rear adapter assembly on my tranny-possibly transfer case / #accidentalhumor http://tinyurl.com/27pdekb
  • reasons morning drinking is ok: vacation, never stopped from the prior night, thanksgiving, grand slam tennis sundays. where’s my champagne?
  • bible study meeting just broke out around me at my coffee shop. i’m taking it as a sign from god that i should be at the bar.
  • Listening to Yankee Fan argue with Sawx Fan feels like witnessing a debate between Hitler and Gengis Khan. #shootmenow
  • Me; I’ve been lobbying for 10 yrs for cocktailing as olympic sport; My Friend: but Refugee, you lost your amatuer status years ago.#Truedat
  • just learned that really cute stranger at my coffeshop table & reading the SAT Prep book is a teacher. DirtyOldMan crisis averted.

 


obligations and rights – kept and ignored, preserved and violated

22 June 2010

I am a fan of enumerated rights and clear obligations… for example:

I am obliged to attend friends’ 30th birthday parties… on roof decks… with stunning 360 degree views… and great company.

I am obliged to accept dates from long-lashed ingénues when asked.

The aforementioned ingénue has an absolute right to cancel at the last minute and by accidental extension make me look supremely over-dressed for that rooftop party that was to be my precursory activity.

I have an absolute right to contend (against all evidence and beliefs of friends) that it was the canceled date that made me over-dressed rather than my natural proclivity.

I have a right to choose extending my night by drinking with my favorite bartender and one of my favorite people.

I have an obligation not to accept the advances of the very tipsy girl who is overly flirtatious with me because her almost-last-call-sensor is ringing like a church bell, or she is expressing latent daddy-issues due to proximity to father’s day and a man more than fifteen years her senior.

I have a right to go onto the sidewalk and hail a cab without being ignored by drivers of empty cabs, or being unduly questioned about my destination before being granted admittance to said cab.

I have an obligation not to become testy when empty cabs keep passin’ me by in search of faster and presumably more lucrative fares of large groups.

Cab drivers have an obligation to know where they’re going and I have lesser obligation to calmly provide direction when they don’t.

All passengers have a right to certain conditions for that ride (heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, a silent ride if they choose.)

I am obliged to courteously request a cessation of music being played at ear splitting volumes.

I am obliged to courteously repeat said requests, and a right, guaranteed by law, to expect that said request be honored.

I have a right to indicate that payment will be withheld unless transportation occurs in a manner dictated by law, and a further right to have such disputes mediated by law enforcement officials should a satisfactory agreement not be reached.

Law enforcement officials have an obligation to mediate such disputes without histrionics.

Law enforcement officials have an unmitigated obligation to protect and serve the public while enforcing the laws they are sworn to uphold.

I have several constitutionally guaranteed rights not to be threatened with arrest simply for asking that law enforcement officials do their jobs.

I have additional rights not to have handcuffs produced and told “either get back in the cab or go to jail… right now” when I am breaking no laws.

I have a right not to have the fear of false arrest with an officer producing handcuffs before I have completed two sentences of explanation of the problem.

Police officers have obligation not to foment or underscore the negative stereotypes about themselves.

Knowledge of these rights and obligations does nothing to ease discomfit with the notion that either fear of arrest, or lack of time prevented me from getting a badge number. Nor will that knowledge quell the disquieting erosion of my frequent defense of police officers as a heroic and underpaid lot of civil servants who are too frequently and unfairly tarnished by the actions of a few bad operators… your tarnish just became slightly more fair.


Didn’t Know about the Protruding Nail Until I Walked into a Hammer Shop

17 May 2010

In the black community, the Barbershop has long been the great equalizer, a faucet tap for the social consciousness, and a place where all manner of cultural, educational, and professional differentiation are brought low by the common need to get a haircut and discuss the problems of the world while doing so.  For the better part of the last 70 years, it didn’t matter if you lived in the toniest of areas, worked in the most gilded of towers, black men still needed to go back to their metaphorical Harlems to get a cut.

The bankers would wait next to the bus drivers.  The lawyers would talk sports with the restaurant cooks.  The professors would share space with the guys who were students of the streets.  It would make for excellent networking opportunities if discussing one’s occupation wouldn’t violate one of the more inviolable rules of barbershop etiquette: work talk usually means you’re bragging, being uppity, an asshole or all three.

The unwritten rules are complicated, filled with exemptions, and new ones can be added by the singular consent of the guy with the scissors.

And I had no idea how much I had missed it all.

For the past year or so, I have been getting my cuts from a lovely woman who doesn’t work in a traditional barbershop… actually Sydney operates from a beauty salon that caters mostly to Latin American women.  The conversations I could hear were mostly in Spanish and the ones in English were unfamiliar to me at best and of the “men-need-to-steer-clear” variety at worst.  Recently work has kept me from my normal every three weeks schedule and I was at least ten days overdue.

Dear non-black-male readers, I know that every three weeks may seem a bit excessive to you.  I know that some of you may also be wondering “but your hair’s so short why would it matter?”  The answer is within both of the questions.  Because my hair is closely cropped, it doubles in length in 21 days.  If your hair grew twice as long as you prefer to keep it, you might be sprinting to the shop too.

I walked into my backup barbershop a couple of days ago because I still couldn’t get an appointment with Sydney.  I sat for about 90 minutes as the entirety of the shop partook of conversation about the NBA Playoffs, President Obama, DC elections, Strivers Row, and a few more things I cannot recall.  Some of the talk was serious, some of it got called out as ‘barbershop woofing’, but all of it was a social balm.  There’s a “No Profanity” sign on the wall – it seems irrelevant because there is a varnish of reverence at all old-school shops.  We would no sooner curse here than we would in a church undercroft.

The cut wasn’t quite as tight, and surely didn’t feel as good absent the scalp and neck massage that I get from Sydney.  But I certainly don’t get the same visceral needs met with her.  As much as I made a big deal about finding Sydney, I think it’s time for me to tell her that we need to have an open relationship.


Random Friday, Random Housekeeping, Is It Happy Hour Yet?

2 April 2010

I thank all of you for your good wishes on my announcement yesterday. As I emailed more than a few of you who left comments, the proper etiquette, however, requires “Best Wishes” to the prospective bride, and “Congratulations” to the guy who just executed an outstanding April Fools Day Prank.  I’m Gonna Break Your Heart and I will be together forever, but as the great friends we have been since the day we met but there will be no marriage.

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I recently saw some who was the worst kind of cliché – one that is dangerous is both the literal and metaphorical sense.  From the elevated perch of my Metrobus window seat, I watched some self-centered millennial asshole driving his BMW with his knees while having two hands on his crackberry.  Never have I wanted to throttle someone more than at that moment.  For the love of Bacon and all things Holy, put the bloody phone down and drive!

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Filed under: How Could I not Know About This, yesterday was the birthday of my severe blog crush, Rachel Maddow.  As I have admitted my horrid ability to remember even the most significant of birthdays, that memory omission doesn’t shock me or anyone who’s know me for more than a calendar year.  The part that annoys me is that Maddow fans on Twitter determined that they would send enough tweets with the hash tag Maddow to get her on the global front page of trends. Never mind that I barely know enough to write or understand that last sentence, but how did I miss that?

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Some Free Advice to Restaurateurs from Someone who Gets Paid to Give It: I know that everyone is telling you that you have be involved in new media and social networking to be successful.  While there is some truth there, the bigger issue is that you should resist the urge to fuck with things you don’t understand.  If you don’t know the etiquettes and charms and general ways of these tools they can only be more dangerous than productive.

The following is an excerpt from a DC Blogs Round-Up I had put together.  It centered around a soon to open restauranteur who threatened a blogger with litigation over a mostly innocuous but critical comment left on her blog.  For editorial reasons, it got cut before publishing.  I share it with you all here because I still think it entertaining and enlightening.

In a stunning example of “the solution is worse than the problem,” U Street Girl received a complaint from a business owner about a comment left on her blog.  The request threatened legal action and caught the attention of more than a few other bloggers.

Original Post from U Street Girl

Removal Post from U Street Girl

Reaction from 14th and You

Reaction from dcist (and a flood of comments)

Reaction from We Love DC

Reaction from Sophistpundit


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

16 February 2010

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

Among the things I wrote at the time:

I endorse, embrace, and enthusiastically support the crush.

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

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

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

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


A Couple of Endorsements and a Few Not So Much

27 January 2010

Not Exactly an Endorsement – It was barely four years ago that Mel Gibson revealed himself to be an Anti-Semitic jackhole.  His lunatic rants were all over the entertainment news wires.  TMZ published his arrest report, Gibson went on the typical apology tour, about which I am calling bullshit (Booze will lower inhibitions and allow one to say things that are already in his/her heart, but it won’t plant the most vile of thoughts there.)

Now about 40 months later (less than half the amount of time it took for the Holocaust… you know just to add some perspective) this filth spewing, ignorant racist (I know: redundant,) Holocaust Denier has a big budget movie from a major studio.  The trailers are all over the television and the net and I can’t look at his repugnant mug without wanting to change the channel.

An Endorsement – The Wet Martini, also known by its proper name, Martini, is a beautiful drink when well made.  Sadly, we got sold on the notion that a dry martini has virtue as opposed to being what it is: a big glass of cold gin.  Go to a good bar and ask the bartender for a real martini (you’ll know it’s a good bar if the bartender smiles with delight at the prospect) with Hendricks, or Bluecoat American Dry and a dash of Fee Brothers’ Bitters.

Not Exactly an Endorsement – Television Commercials for Anti-Depressants are clearly designed by some people who’ve never dealt with clinical depression.  Attempting to make someone who suffers from this disease feel even worse in an effort to sell more of your drugs may not be equivalent to emotional blackmail but it’s not far behind it.

An Endorsement – Buying the Suit/Dress/Whatever and then find the event later.  Maybe you host a cocktail party yourself and invite your friends to drink in all of their semi-formal finery.  Maybe you gather your friends for a night of fancy drinking just cause, or maybe you just attend one of the hundreds of charity galas held in every metropolitan area every year.  Get the threads, the event will come or you can make your own.

Not Exactly an Endorsement – Professional Football Quarterbacks who consistently blame their teammates when things go wrong.  I’m not naming any names, cough, cough, Peyton Manning, but I am pretty sure that every time it happens butterflies lose their wings, puppies get stomach aches, and maybe a large woman gets ready to sing.


An Idea, A Notion, Some Inspiration, A Contest, and Dinner?

8 January 2010

If I can’t use this blog to do something for others, then what is the point of having it?  That was the question, the notion that was in my head when I was having a beer and a burger with the irrepressibly funny LiLu and her boyfriend B.

I told them of a rough idea I had about offering my private chef service to a couple who couldn’t ordinarily afford to hire me.  Valentine’s Day weekend is a very busy and profitable period for me and I explained that I was feeling this desire to reserve that Friday night, 12 February, for some teacher, or social worker, or Hill Staffer, or really anyone who has a heart of gold but not the bank account to match.  I just didn’t know the best way to find that person.

B gave me the perfect idea: have people nominate someone besides themselves and then do it as a raffle.

And with that, the RR Valentines Personal Chef Raffle begins.

The Rules:

  • You cannot nominate yourself.
  • You can nominate as many people as you want.
  • Nominations can be made via a comment in this post, or by sending me an email (restaurantrefugee at gmail dot com.)
  • All nominees must reside in the DC metropolitan area.
  • Nominations must include your email, a brief description of why your nominee should be included (i.e. My friend John is a really terrific teacher who would never do this for himself but really deserves it.)  You should also feel free to be as verbose as you deem necessary to fully elucidate your reasoning.
  • Nominees should not be fully identified to protect their privacy.
  • Nominees do not need to be a couple in the romantic sense (i.e. if you have two good friends who are meritorious and they don’t have plans for Valentines Day.)
  • Due to other commitments, the date is largely inflexible, but some reasonable accommodations can be made.
  • You may nominate vegetarians – you may not nominate vegans.
  • I may reject any nominee if the reason for nomination trips my bullshit sensor or seems otherwise insufficient.
  • Each nominee will be assigned a number.  All numbers will be placed in a bowl and one will be pulled at random by a third party – someone with a webcam and a penchant for making videos (LiLu, thanks for volunteering) and will be posted on the web.
  • Nominations will be accepted until 26 January.  The drawing will take place within 48 hours of the close of the nominating process.

p.s. in case you’re wondering what type of dinners I prepare for my clients (and don’t have the inclination to sift through the archives to find them,) the following menus are my favorites of the past year:

A Summer Anniversary Dinner for Six:

Canapés

  • Big Eye Tuna Tartar in corn tortilla cups
  • Caprese Salad Skewers drizzled with 10 year aged Balsamic
  • Mini Grilled Cheese: gorgonzola, prosciutto, and tomato on grilled baguette

Amuse Bouche: Sweet Corn Velute with olive oil poached lobster and Parmesan Beignet

First Course: Pork Cigars

Slow cooked pork and mascarpone cheese in a tissue paper potato shell with a spiced apple cream sauce and petite arugula and micro green salad

Soup Course: Shrimp Bisque

North Atlantic Prawns in a tomato based bisque with a six hour roux

Third Course: Beef and Potatoes

Braised Beef Short Ribs with a spinach and artichoke cassoulet, truffled French fries, and reduction of braising jus

Sweet Course: Apple Slapple Sweet

Cinnamon and sugar glazed apples in a deep fried spring roll with cognac & caramel sauce.

Cheese Course: Cheese and Accoutrements

Selection of Cowgirl Creamery Cheese with slivered almonds, wildberry compote, and truffled honey.

Cajun Themed Holiday Dinner for Ten:

Amuse Bouche: Shot of Guacamole Soup with essence of Black Forest Bacon

Canapés

  • Cajun Sushi Roll with Andouille Sausage, Pimento Cheese and Anaheim Peppers
  • Blue Cheese Gourgeres
  • Shrimp and Jalapeño Hush Puppies

First Course

Seafood Gumbo Or Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Entrée Course

Tagliatelle Pasta with Jambalaya style Sauce Or Red Snapper with Heirloom Tomato and Basil Sauce

Dessert Course

Mint Chocolate Mouse topped with frozen and crumbled Peppermint Patty Pieces

Fall Dinner for Four*

Salad of Asparagus “Linguini” with Wild Mushrooms, Pancetta and Poached Quail Egg

Pumpkin and Roasted Pine Nut Bisque with Garlic and Truffle Au Jus

Lamb Tenderloin Medallions with Lamb Shank Confit Spring Rolls and Spinach & Artichoke Cassoulet

Cheese Course: Cheese and Accoutrements

* they didn’t get an amuse bouche because it was this couple


Post Requiem on the Only Blizzard of the Oughts

23 December 2009

During a recent bar conversation, a few friends remarked on the laudible snow removal efforts in DC.  While I would agree that the DC government did a nice job, in the big picture of clearing streets, I am not willing to hold the bar quite so low.

Since the snow stopped falling on Saturday night, I have traveled by foot, Metro Bus, Metrorail, and Cab through the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, Brightwood, Petworth, Cleveland Park, Adams Morgan, Woodley Park, Dupont Circle, Farragut, Midtown, Georgetown, Penn Quarter, and maybe a few more.  Sidewalks are still hazardous to an athletic adult male fully equipped with snow boots because of large swaths of unshoveled walks with compacted snow/ice.  They are extremely arduous for women with baby strollers, and they’re impassible to anyone in a wheelchair.

I get resource allocation theory.  I understand that we needed to focus on the largest and most heavily traveled streets first, and then work down towards smaller streets.  I further understand that sidewalk clearing is largely the responsibility of landowners whose property abuts said sidewalk but what about the intersections?  What about the accessible ramps at intersections that are covered by snow-banks that the road crews had to build? What about the sidewalks adjacent to public parks?

This impacts pubic safety, the local economy, civic morale, and very well might be a giant civil rights law suit because of violations to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I am a native Washingtonian, thus I understand that DC Government doesn’t handle snow as well as some localities because we don’t get it as much.  It would be an illogical and grotesquely wasteful use of funds to acquire equivalent resources as a city like Chicago when snow’s like this only occur once a decade or so.

The sidewalk issues are more about human resources, however. This work requires people with shovels, and snow blowers, and salt/sand dispensers.

What’s the unemployment rate in the District?

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When I was a much younger Washingtonian, snow days were a source of elation not just because of the promise of a day without school but at least in equal measure, they provided the opportunity to make some quick cash clearing sidewalks for people who were unable, unwilling, or simply preferred not to do it themselves.

As a neighbor who is a few years my junior and I cleared our own sidewalks and those of three other neighbors who are many years our senior, I kept waiting for those tweens and teens to arrive with shovels and an entrepreneurial spirit.  They never came.  Four hours spent on walkways and freeing cars from snow banks and we didn’t see a single one.

I am now – officially – a curmudgeon as I have made more than the statutorily allowed references to things that happened “in my day.”

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In case you haven’t seen it, the Washington Post has a terrific op-ed piece by the “guy who wound up being detained by police” in the Great Snowball Fight of 09.


First Things First… and That Ain’t First

28 November 2009

In context of lives well lived, I am a young man; and this isn’t about to be some whiny, woe is me, I’m getting old post.  I have, however, started to become one of those guys who compares the world to things that happened in “my day.”  It wasn’t my lack of appreciation for contemporary music that pushed me to this acknowledgement, nor was it suffering the indignity of a sex sprain.  I am declaring my premature fogy status because I have become increasingly uncomfortable with immodesty.

I’ve never made a secret of my online dating adventures.  Recently a woman sent me a message; I skimmed her profile, looked at her pictures, and was immediately put off by her bikini shots.  That the bikini has become the standard swim suit for all women not swimming competitively is something that I have accepted.  That it has grown smaller by the year is also sartorial Stare Decisis.  Putting that imagination extinguishing picture in an online dating profile for all potential suitors to see is a bridge too far for me.

A woman’s body may be the world’s most perfect creation, and I love seeing as many of them as karma and life will allow.  I just don’t want to see that body before I know your name.  This might mark me as a prude, but really, is there no modesty left in this world?


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.

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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.


I Know / I Wish

19 September 2009

I know your boyfriend is an asshole and I haven’t even met him yet.  I wish I knew you well enough to say.

I know you don’t like me and that I wouldn’t trust you to make oxygen into carbon dioxide.  I wish that you would stop pretending.

I know that we’re back on friendly terms, can bend an elbow together even, but I’ll never be with you again.  I do wish that I could bottle that look from the first time I rejected you.

I know that you and your fiancé are happily ensconced in your life and you know that I love both you and her.  I do wish that you and I still had our great friendship.

I know that you mostly mean well when you keep offering me that gig.  I wish that I could take you seriously.

I know that you’re married and I am no threat to you, your husband, or your marriage.  I do wish I didn’t enjoy being around you quite so much.

I know that you’ve loved me since before I was born.  I wish you didn’t have such a fucked up way of showing it.

I know you’ve been sober for five years now and your sobriety is more important than our friendship.  I wish the two weren’t mutually exclusive.

I know that you’re a gentleman and a stand up guy.  I wish you hadn’t placed me in a position that asked me not to be too.

I know that I am a deeply flawed man.  I wish I spent more time trying to fix the fixable flaws and made less excuses to place flaws in the non-fixable column.


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.

Give Me Some Help with a Speech…

10 September 2009

One of my old high school football teammates and I crossed paths in the grocery store about a month ago.  It had been more than a decade since we had seen each other so we decided that shopping could wait but getting reacquainted over a couple of beer couldn’t.

The very short version of the rest of the story is that he is now the head coach at our alma mater, and asked me to give the pregame speech before this weekend’s game.  For reasons that would take way too long to explain, this is a huge deal for me.  What follows is the latest draft of my speech* – any thoughtful criticism would be appreciated.

There are only a few people in this room who had the great privilege of knowing Dr. Oliver Thomas.  He was the football coach, and head student counselor here for almost thirty years. Your coach and I played four years for him, won conference and city titles with him, never lost a game on this field with him.  In our time with Coach Thomas, we only lost three games, were nationally ranked three of those years, produced a handful of professional players, scores of collegiate players, and routinely smacked around your opponents today.

I would love to talk with you about any of those experiences, but if Dr. Thomas knew that I only had this time to address you, the newest members in the fraternity of young men who have worn these colors, and I spoke only of sport, he would be disappointed in me.

The legacy of this school is in the ninety years it has produced fine, and well balanced men.  You will play many games, and there will be many people in your lives, and some who just want to be in your lives.  Some of them will tell you that the scoreboard is what matters.  I agree with them, but we will use different standards of measurement. The scores that matter will reflect the men you will become, the effort you will leave behind and the measure of character in your performance.

This day matters. This game matters.  How you play matters, but only in the context of the man you become when this game is over, your high school career over, and you leave this hallowed institution as graduates.

Doc Thomas never cut anybody – people cut themselves; he always said.  If you gave everything you had on the practice field, on game day, in the classroom and in the community you were forever welcome on his team.  In life, you won’t get cut from anything either if you keep giving your all and in all things.

20 years ago your coach and I played this team to a virtual stand still on this field.  We were ranked number one and they were number two.  The game proceeded as expected between two good teams – a seesaw for most of it, but we finally got up five points with five minutes to go.  They came down the field until they were on the one yard line with two minutes to go.  And we stood em’ up.  Four plays in a row, no quit.

Do you want to know the first thing that Doc Thomas said to me after the game?  He said “that was a helluva game, Refugee; let’s see that same effort on your physics test on Monday.”

Play this game in the same way you live your life – on the field, in school, and beyond all of this – all go, no quit, until whistle blows.

* names and some details changed for obvious reasons.


Shocked by Metro Employees

8 September 2009

By the time I ascended to the Metro exit last Thursday night, I was angry with myself for having slept two stations past my stop and it being too late for a return trip.  In deciding to be fiscally prudent and save the cab fare, I had doubled the fare home.  It wasn’t until I was at the gate that I realized that my money clip (with my SmartTrip Card) was still on the train.

I resigned myself to having lost a couple hundred in cash, my drivers license, a credit card or two, and the several hours it would take to replace all of them, but first I had to exit the station.

“Excuse me, I left my wallet on the train, and it had my Smart Trip in there” I said to the attendant who was a few minutes from going home.  I fully expected him to direct me towards the emergency exit and my fate of losing cash and time.

black_money_clip_foil_stamp200“What car were you on” he asks.

“The last one; it’s closest to the exit at my normal stop.”

“OK, hang on a second” he says and makes a phone call.

I am shocked by his efforts but still have low expectations.

“We found it.  Let’s head downstairs; train should be here in a couple minutes.”

Five minutes later I have cash for the cab ride home, the same ugly picture on my license, and a renewed sense of the integrity and customer service of Metro employees.

One person went out of his way to help me, and two people looked at cash and decided to return it to its owner.  Doing the right thing when no one is watching takes true honor.

***************

It should be noted that my money clip does not have a monogram – I have no trouble remembering my own initials.


An Open Letter to People Who Took Issue with an Open Letter

2 September 2009

I had intended to post something else today.  A post with a bunch of mini restaurant reviews was scheduled to appear two minutes after I received another thoughtful comment taking issue with my last post.  This is an amalgamation of emails exchanged with a few readers who took particular umbrage with what they perceived as the smallness of calling women names in this space.

I hate to give one of those political apologies which are generally devoid of meaning as it is apology without acknowledgement… but I apologize for any offense I might have caused, it was not my intent.  I respectfully disagree, however, with much of the characterizations levied in both public and private.

With regard to the pettiness of the post and the outsized nature of my indignation, I gave considerable thought to that interpretation.  My initial reaction was to agree with the supposition; however, after some more mental marinating, I have grown to think that position is largely the result of interpretation through personal experiences.  Through the prism of women who have surely been the recipient of unwanted attention, my indignation might seem to have been an overreaction, but how was it really?

As some acknowledged in comments, my blog is a space for me to bitch about any number of topics.  How much did I really bitch though?  I wrote that accusing a man of wanting to “check out [your] ass” in a voluble tone was conduct not befitting a lady and I contend that it is not.

I described a woman as Plain Jane which can be read as a pejorative, but I solely intended as a descriptor.  Had it been a man that had been rude to me I am sure I would have written something about his corporate khaki and polo uniform.  I further wrote that her response made me doubt the existence of a man that would marry her – that would have been a bridge too far if stated to her in reply, and admittedly may have been in this context as well, but I still don’t think it an egregious thought to express anonymously (both author and subject) in this space.

The past her prime platinum blonde line was inspired at least as much by my affinity for alliteration as it was an effort to describe a woman who was far too old to wear a skirt that short, a top cut that low, and generally looking like a 50 year old club kid wannabe.  For the record, I would have described a man dressed in equally age inappropriate attire in similar ways.

As I noted and some graciously acknowledged, empathy is tough for men here. But the converse applies as well.  I don’t think there is any value in comparing the difficulty of having one’s motivations constantly questioned versus receiving unwanted and or crude sexual attention.  But it is worth considering how it might have felt for me on that day, on the many days that this has occurred.  How many women can empathize with the frustration associated with the accumulated indignities from the tactic and implicit questioning of one’s integrity in that manner?

“Get over it” was the suggestion from more than one reader, and I should be flattered that readers consider this place somehow above such pettiness.  I don’t think it was anything extraordinary that I ranted about a slightly shitty day, as I have ranted about far less.

Many of you may still disagree with me on the merits of that post.  In fact, I know some of you still do.  I will concede that the post could have been more artfully written to have avoided that reasoned perception but I hope that this missive finds us all on more common than divergent ground.

***********************

P.S. New Recipe on My Recipe Blog – Braised Short Ribs with Truffled French Fries


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