If You Have to Ask…

30 October 2009

…Whether something might be offensive, it usually is. Still I need some general guidance.

Despite my general disdain for what Halloween has become, I am considering going to a costume party this evening. With such a last minute plan, my costume options are limited. I am thinking about going as a “Top Chef” as in a chef who is a top. Too much, offensive? Thoughts anyone?


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.

Fill In the Blank Friday Volume – I Stopped Counting

23 October 2009

All comments in brackets [are to be interpreted as options from which you may select one choice or opt for your own choice.]

  1. If I could get all [men, women] on the planet to _______________ for just one day, I would be a happy blogtart.
  2. If I could make everyone in [my family, circle of friends, company, city, or the human race] read one blog post, it would be _______________ because it really made me _______________.
  3. It may no longer be age appropriate, but I wish I could [occasionally, frequently, always] _______________ like I did when I was a kid.
  4. I know it has some redemptive qualities; but if I could remove the _______________ technological advancement from history, I would do it in a second.
  5. According to Verve.com, the five best date movies of all time (from 5 to 1) are Barberella, To Have and to Have Not, Say Anything, Casablanca, and Some Like It Hot.  I really think that _______________ should have made the list.
  6. Speaking of Movies… if a potential suitor didn’t [like, love, cry during] the movie _______________, it would be a large red flag.
  7. If you want to ask me to do something difficult, asking with a _______________ in your hand would be a very good start*.
  8. I don’t know _______________, but I have an [intellectual, blog, purely platonic] crush on him/her that just won’t quit.
  9. Paraphrasing and with apologies to James Lipton, if I wasn’t a _______________ (feel free to omit this part if it would compromise your anonymity,) the occupation I would most like to try is _______________*.
  10. If I could direct every new reader of my blog to _______________ post, it would go a long way towards explaining [my sense of humor, why I started blogging, my sensibilities, or _______________.]
  11. If you would have told me _______________ years ago that I would be _______________ today, I would have laughed in your face; but I surely am/have.
  12. I love the space after the _______________ but before the _______________ *.
  13. We all have better angels and lesser demons whispering in our ears.  At the moment, the angels on my [left, right] shoulder are saying _______________, while the lesser demons on my [right. Left] soldier are saying _______________.

* Cribbed, in whole or in part, from the following prior posts:

Superfluous Friday Edition

Since James Lipton Hasn’t Come Knocking

Been Thinking About Space Since Yesterday’s Morning Storms

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?