I Survived NaBloPoMo

30 November 2009

It feels rather anti-climactic to conclude NaBloPoMo with a post about… well nothing really; but that’s all I have left.  In the last 30 days, I’ve emptied my drafts folder of every post worth posting, and even recreated an old idea or two.

I will leave you with a mini meme, just so you don’t feel like I didn’t give you anything today.

        1. What picture is the wallpaper on your phone?
        2. Putting on my chef coat makes me feel a bit like a superhero; what gives you that feeling?
        3. I am most looking forward to ____________________ in the new year.

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

29 November 2009

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

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

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

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

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

“Atlanta?” I half ask half guess.

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

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

He has the same lovely southern drawl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My pleasure” I say as we shake hands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Giving Help, Giving Thanks

27 November 2009

As I was doing kitchen prep on Wednesday evening, I realized that I didn’t have enough of a couple of things.  Not a big deal, I figured I would swing by the market on my way to my friends place on Thanksgiving.  That morning, like any day when I plan to cook for nine hours, I put on my chef coat.

Walking into a grocery store on thanksgiving morning in a chef coat was not my best idea ever.  It took me almost an hour to buy three bulbs of garlic and two shallots.  There was the question about if a turkey could be over brined (yes but it would take days,) and the one about how long a bird should rest (depends on weight,) a couple about stuffing, and one or two about things I can’t remember.

Yes, I was running late, but only a particular kind of asshole wouldn’t help someone on Thanksgiving morning.  I am not that kind of asshole.

Ten minutes after I finally left the store I went to a coffeeshop near my friend’s house.  The gentleman handed me my large coffee and said “You’re working today too, the coffee’s on the house.”

Sometime’s karma is instant.

The Thanksgiving Post

26 November 2009

The Thanksgiving post is one of those clichés that I really like.  Bloggers the world over profess their gratitude for the readers, commenters, lurkers, and other bloggers who give context to our virtual world and outlet to our expression.  In a world that is so often self-absorbed, it is a refreshing act of gratitude.

Thank you to all of you.  You have been a source of great comfort, validation, a check to my ego, partner with whom to bend an elbow, a worthy foil, and so many other things.

I am




Cooking for the Family You Choose

25 November 2009

I’ve never been a fan of the term “Orphan Thanksgiving;” it seems to imply that the people who attend such affairs are less loved, less worthy.  I know that inference is mine rather than the implication of most of the people who use it. Still, it chafed when someone asked me yesterday what I was doing for the holiday and they used that term when I told him that I was cooking for some friends.

“Oh, an orphan Thanksgiving” he said, followed by “What’s on the menu?”

I will admit that I took some measure of joy in sharing my menu after absorbing that perceived slight.

Lobster Bisque

Twice Baked New Potatoes with Pancetta and Black Truffles

Dauchiusse Potatoes or Fried Mashed Potatoes with Wasabi & Manchego

Artichoke, Mushroom, & Asparagus Casserole

Herbed Red Wine Mustard Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Roulade of Turkey, Duck, and Chicken Paillards done Confit Style

Sweetbread and Lamb Sausage Stuffing

And Winter Fruit Tarts with a Caramel Glaze

When he said “Wow, I’d be an orphan for that meal,” I tried not to smirk.

Homecoming Week… Apparently

24 November 2009

As I was sitting in my favorite java shack this morning, a woman began making eye contact with me while she was waiting for her beverage.  She looked vaguely familiar but only in that I-frequently-forget-faces-so-maybe-we-have-met type of way.  I went back to my computer.  About five minutes later, a shadow appeared over my table.

“Excuse me, are you Refugee?” inquired the woman who’d been looking my way earlier.

“Yes… I am, um forgive me; but have…”

“I’m Toi – used to be Toi Robinson, now Johnson; I went to Anonymous Catholic Girls School when you were at…”

“Yes, yes, I am sorry; it’s good to see you” I said while rising to do some awkward hug-handshake-cheek kiss hybrid.

Toi and I spent a couple of minutes doing the meaningless small talk of people who haven’t seen each other in years.

It’s been more than twenty years since I took Toi on my first real date ever, which also happened to be just about my worst ever…

(Reposting this because… seriously? I ran into the woman who I took on my first date.  How often does that happen?)


I was 16 and it was my first day with my first car, a white Fiat Spyder with a tan top. It was the 16th of June many years ago and weather for the evening was supposed to be the kind of late spring balminess that is the reward for bitter winters.

Finally decided to ask out Toi Robertson*. I had been crushing on her from a distance for months but I couldn’t ask her out until I could take her out properly – in a car that is. I get to her house, survive her old man’s roasting and finally make it to the car. I am feeling like I have the tiger by the tail as the really pretty girl settles into the seat of my convertible, the car I had been saving for a year to buy. I came crashing back to earth when she asked me to put the top up. I should have known better than to keep going; but my first real date could not end like this. So I drove to dinner with the wind that was in my sails, now passing all around but not in the car.

I took her to dinner at Houston’s in Georgetown, hoping that the really pretty girl would be impressed that we were having such a grown-up evening. No. Our conversation was non-existent. I was hoping that it was the difficult shy conversation of soon-to-be star gazing teenagers; but no. I kept asking questions only to receive the minimal number of words in response. I tried everything in my paltry 16 year old arsenal, but all romantic weapons were firing blanks.

After dinner, we walked around Georgetown, all the while I was hoping against logic and hope that something would spark. Walk-Away Sundaes from Hagen-Daas – nothing. Continue to ask questions in an attempt to display my earnest interest in her – nothing. The only weapon left was the Declaration of Independence Memorial, a small island on a man-made lake that is romantic overkill. Surely no one could stand in the presence of the most romantic space in all of DC and be blasé.

As we drove to my last chance of an island, I teased the view to come. She actually showed a hint of interest for the first time. Following a brief search for parking, we are walking in the moonlight towards the island, under a canopy of trees, in the midst of a young summer night until we arrive.

They had drained the lake for cleaning.

OK, Karma, message received.

* name changed to protect the lame