Old Friends Found in Funny Ways

30 December 2009

Monica is the sixth child of Salvatore and Annalisa.

It is worth noting, just because it is, that a fifteen year old Salvatore lied about his age to get into the US Army and fought in the European theatre in World War II.  Upon getting out of the Army, he used the G.I. Bill to attend college and earn a PhD from Stanford.  He is an unmitigated intellectual badass with courage to spare and a drawer full of medals to prove it.

Monica seemed to have the wisdom, charm, and wit of her siblings running down hill to her.  She was one of that exceptionally rare breed of human – so kind, so interesting, so everything, that if you didn’t like Monica, it was probably your fault.  And for some reason, during her last year of grad school she chose to date me.

I was still pretty young too – fresh out of grad school and just starting to make a decent living. We were mostly up through the fall, briefly down in the winter, and the strangest of peaks and valleys that spring.  In retrospect, I am fairly sure that our inconsistent behavior, despite steady feelings, was primarily a product of two people adjusting too the new reality of adulthood.  I did have the pleasure of meeting her old a man just before Christmas and again at her graduation that spring.

Monica was stuck in New York for job interviews when she called and asked me to entertain her father until she could get back.  It happened to be the night of the inner office holiday party of the corporate titan for which I was consulting.  The party was held at one of the swanky pool hall/bar/lounge that became really popular in the mid 90s.  Being the pool snob that I was (fine, still am too) I had my sticks with me for the party and consequently when I walked in the hotel bar to meet Salvatore for the first time.

We had planned to grab a drink at the hotel and wait for Monica for a late dinner but as soon as he saw my cue case, Sal asked “someplace for us to get a game around here?”

I’ve mentioned my pool game before, and I’ve mentioned that I’m a pretty decent shot, but that doesn’t provide full context.  Standard pool ratings run from 2 to 7.  You’re average person playing in a bar that has a couple of coin operated tables is between a 2 and a 3.  The average person in my pool league is just better than a 4.  Back then, I ranged between a five and a six depending on how much I practiced.

A Short cab ride later we’re walking into my usual pool hall and headed for a corner table.  I was determined that I was not going be that guy – it’s bad enough that he knows I’m shtupping his daughter, does he really need to be a worse pool player too – but to make every game I lost look good.

In an odd way, I was playing incredibly well to just miss shots and have it appear that I really meant to hit them.  We played about a dozen games: I won three, Sal won three, and I gave him the other six.

Our conversation flowed easily and there was more of it than most games between serious competitors.  We really liked each other and, drank the same single malt.

By the time Monica arrived, Sal and I were full-on friends and I kept my losing percentage the same.  I was really proud of myself for losing so well.  When Monica went to the wash closest, Sal said to me “You know, Refugee, your games pretty good you should just practice some more.”

That burned a bit, but I was still in control.  A game later when Sal chortled at one of my misses and laughed “Poor Refugee, any time you get near the eight ball, you keep choking,” that was a bridge too far.

I didn’t quite run the next rack, but I wasn’t too far from it.

Sal just whispered in my ear “It’s about time you stopped laying down” and winked at me.

In return, I gave him my favorite line from the best pool movie ever.  “Just give me your best game, Fat Man, just give me your best.”

He laughed, and we continued playing until well after the place closed.

We played about even, if any one’s curious.

Salvatore died last week.  He leaves behind an amazing wife, six children, more grandchildren than I can count, and a really big fan on the other side of the country.


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.

Positive Vibes Project – A Guest Post

28 December 2009

I first read about the Positive Vibes Campaign over at Coming Home – by the by, Positive Vibes Campaign is my made-up name for this project.  She loaned her blog to a friend who could use some positive energy/prayer/good thoughts.  I thought I would lend a virtual hand.

I’ll be back with some navel-gazing, year-in-review type stuff tomorrow, but for now, the floor belongs to Brandy.

My name is brandy. And I have a blog.

And a plea.

I use my blog to showcase the crazy I meet everyday, share the stories of the kids I teach and document my love for tequila, dairy products and the abdominal muscles of Ryan Reynolds. Rarely do I talk about personal issues on my blog- as personal as the dude that I adore (who I actually met through my blog- single ladies, let that be a very good reason to blog, the possibility of meeting someone as wonderful as my man), but I need your help. And it involves my dude.

He’s a guy who made math comics for my class, so they would love learning about addition. He’s the kinda guy who sends my friends gift cards when they are having hard times, who remembers every story I ever told him, who was the first person I celebrated with when I got a teaching job. He’s the guy who sent flowers to me at school- dozens of my favourite pink roses just because he loves me. He’s a guy who has spent a year patiently explaining (and re-explaining) everything there is to know about football during the important games when silence is preferred. He’s made me word puzzles and comics and stayed up late playing Scrabble with me (even though I beat him almost every time). He’s listened to me cry about school and family and jobs. He is everything I never knew I needed and everything I always knew I wanted.

The holidays have hit us hard. He’s recently been told he may have something called multiple myeloma- an incurable cancer, that gives a person an average of five years of continued life. Though this news has came as a shock, he continues to be exactly who has always been- spending his time worrying about me, rather than worrying about himself. He’s the most selfless individual I know- (he stayed late on Christmas Eve to work, so his co-workers could leave early) and a post like this would never be something that he would promote or encourage but when I’m overwhelmed and feeling helpless, the blogging community has always given me tremendous support and comfort, two things I desperately need at this time.

As I write this, the future is uncertain and we aren’t sure what’s happening. He’ll need to see an oncologist soon, to verify what’s going on in his body. My hope is that everyone who reads this think positive thoughts and if you are a person who prays, could you add him to your list? (You can refer to him as ‘brandy’s hot awesome dude’). If you don’t pray, please keep him in your heart.This cancer is only a possibility and I believe that the prayers and positive thoughts of people can make sure it never becomes a reality.

I want to give a big thank you to the blog owner who scraped their original blog plans and graciously put this up. My goal is to get as many people as possible to see and read this post. If you are reading this and want to help, copy and paste my plea into your blog or send a link through twitter, so more people can keep him in their thoughts. I would be so very grateful (even more grateful than I am to my friend who first showed me the picture of Ryan Reynolds on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. If you haven’t seen it, google it. You. Are. Welcome).

I realize this all sounds dramatic, a Lifetime movie in the making- but this is life. Right now. And I’m throwing away any hint of ego and am humbly asking for you to pray or think kind thoughts. If you are able to pass this on, thank you and if you know anything regarding MM- please email me (my email is on my blog). This isn’t a call for sympathy or a plea for pity. It’s just one girl hoping you can think positive thoughts for the person she adores. If my current heartache provides you with anything, let it be with the reminder that life is short, love is unbending and no one knows what could happen next. Maybe it is silly, but I really do believe that positive thoughts can make a huge difference. Thank you for reading this and if you haven’t already? Please tell someone you love them today.

I did.

Worst Christmas Gift Ever

24 December 2009

My blog reader had grown like a woman who hadn’t shaved her legs in two weeks.  With the holidays providing me with a mostly free morning, I was determined to make a dent in it when I came across this week old post from my virtual friend who writes the Skrinkering Hearts blog.  It’s a delightful Christmas themed meme which asked, amog other questions, “What was your worst Christmas gift ever?”  What follows is my answer.

My first relationship that lasted more than six months began during an internship at a large pharmaceutical company.  I was in the marketing department and Trina Freeman was interning in the research arm of the organization.  As is typical with big organizations, Anonymous Big Pharma Co. hosted many social events for their interns, a blatant attempt to lull the young minds into believing that working there will be all sunshine and puppies kind of fun.  Trina and I met at one of those cocktail receptions.

I wasn’t even a little bit cool.  As soon as I laid eyes on her, I double timed it across the room to introduce myself.  Our courtship was quick, and our relationship intense, like summer loves are supposed to be, but we tried to make it last when we returned to our respective graduate programs.  That 900 miles separated us was inconvenient but our effort and affections remained strong.  We talked on the phone every day, wrote letters frequently, and saw each other once a month.

Christmas eve we had just finished dinner at a charming restaurant in the little Italy section of her city and were walking back to her place.  Unable to contain her excitement, Trina said “You’re gonna luv your gifts” with a Cherry Hill, NJ accent that I still found endearing.   When we got back to her place, she opened my gift to her first – a sapphire and diamond tennis bracelet.  She gave me two boxes, one jewelry sized, and the other about the size of a book.

“Which should I open first” I asked.  By way of answer she pointed excitedly to the book sized box.  For reasons still unknown to this paper ripper, I carefully undid the wrapping at the tape joints and opened the box.  It was Calvin Klein’s Obsession Fluid Body Talc.  I try to be gracious when receiving any gift but my look of confusion was easily read.

“You don’t like it” Trina asked with more than a hint of disappointment.

“I’m sorry; it’s not that I don’t like it” I said while leaning over to kiss her.  “I just don’t quite understand it” I continued.

“Well you already wear Obsession, so I figured that the accessory would be something really nice to use after a shower.”

“Trina, I don’t wear cologne.”

A look descended on both of our faces and all of the air left the room as we mutually realized the implication of her error.

I never found out what was in the other box.

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?


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.”


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.

Woulda Twittered Tuesday Volume III

22 December 2009

As you most of you all know, I steadfastly refuse to Twitter (though, I will confess to having registered the name of this blog and my real name just in case either suddenly become famous.)  As I have done in the past, the following 140 character or less thoughts, questions, statements of philosophy, etc. crossed my mind in the last week or so.

I just won a beer for my stirring and complete a’capella rendition of Slick Rick’s hip-hop classic LaDiDaDi – beat that bitches.

ME: You’re out of half-n-half you want Bailey’s in coffee instead? Old Friend: how long you known me? It’s 9am of course I want the Bailey’s

I’m going to see It’s Complicated on opening weekend because Hollywood needs to learn that women can be sexy beyond age 30.  Who’s in?

I don’t understand the people who drive in bad snow except in case of emergency: life or limb, aid of a friend, out of beer, etc.

My new Netbook is named Ada, after the woman who kept a very irritated me from walking out of Best Buy after being ignored for 30 minutes.

I spent 30hours planning 6 courses.  Ironically, the amuse bouche that I made up 20 minutes before service was the star of the night.

Regarding my last, if you ask really nicely, I just might share the recipe for Guacamole Mousse with Bacon Essence.

Regarding my last, before any of you ask, yes, I do make lots of things without bacon, but with some flavors, why would I bother?

Yes, it’s December, and we can attire ourselves lazily when many layers are involved but come on ladies, this is remedial fashion advice.

When the aforementioned tights are worn with Ugg style boots (really wish that fad would go away and die,) it is particularly unflattering.

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