Insomnia Friday – Thoroughly Random Thoughts

2 July 2010

Insomnia’s been intermittently kicking my ass for the better part of the last 20 years. I cannot recall a stretch that has been as bad as the last few months.

…in other news, Netflix on Demand has been a friendly and faithful companion lately.

…in still other news, the movie TAPS somehow has endured the years quite well.

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My Week in Bars…

To the lovely barmaid with the pixie cut who kept me in good beer at Fat Heads in Pittsburgh, you’re the kind of restaurant professional who makes me wish that I still ran a restaurant just so I could hire you.

To the blowhards sitting next to me at The Uptown in Chicago, I appreciate the very strong feelings you so loudly expressed about illegal immigration. By the by, I wonder who picked the avocados for that five dollar guacamole you were eating?

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So here’s a question for you all…

Recently I found myself in the company of a woman whose professional acquaintance I had just formally made after several email exchanges. After the business portion of the evening, she invited me to join her and several others for cocktails. The preponderance of the others were men, and it was evident that most of them had a more substantive social relationship with her than I, and I also suspect that most of them were quietly interested in her. At a certain point in the evening, this woman began to be less than delicate in concealing her knickers given the length of her skirt. I presume that the booze was the primary factor.

How does one discreetly tell a woman that she is being less than discreet?

How does one discreetly tell a woman he does not know well that it might be time for her to go home… especially given that she is surrounded by closet suitors who have known her longer?

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Get well soon, Tracee Hamilton. You are my favorite WaPo sports columnist these days, and I will miss your voice.

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The One Question Meme: if you could create a version of Netflix that would enable you to have short term rentals of something on a revolving basis, what would it be?

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Something you should know about drinks…

If you’ve ever had a Bellini, chances are you’ve not had a good one. The Bellini is perhaps the simplest of all classic cocktails with only two ingredients, prosecco and white peach puree. It is also one of the most commonly mishandled where people substitute fresh peach puree with something from a can or even worse – fucking wretched Peach Schnapps. Invented by Giuseppi Cipriani in 1948 at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy, the Bellini, when made with fresh and honest ingredients and poured into a proper champagne flute, immediately evokes elegance and sophistication.

  • 3 white peaches peeled and diced
  • 1 bottle of champagne
  • In a blender, puree the peaches. (If you’re like me and sensitive to pulp then run the peach puree through cheese cloth after blending.) Pour 1 ounce of pureed peach into a flute and top with 4 ounces of champagne.

I have also made variations on the Bellini with pears, green apples, and mangoes. The most import thing is to get good and in-season fruit.

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This post is tacit acknowledgement that there is a small chance that I am going to participate in NaBloPoMo for July… I gotta do something to get myself above my non-writing / non-blogging rut.


History, Context, and the Benefit of Doubt

22 July 2009

I was five when I learned that I had an uncle I would never meet because he was strange fruit on an Alabama poplar tree.

I was ten years old the first time the word “Nigger” was hurled at me with venom.

I was eleven the first time I noticed bias from a teacher directed at the only Black kid in the class.

I was fourteen the first time that I found myself on the thoroughly correct side of the law but the wrong side of a police officer who took me to the station in handcuffs because I had the “wrong attitude” and the temerity to be “uppity” when I was right.

I was sixteen the first time a store clerk not so subtly hinted that I couldn’t afford to shop were I was standing.

I was seventeen the first time I was stopped for driving a car in neighborhood where most people who drove there didn’t look like me.  “Failure to come to a complete stop” was the reason.

I was eighteen the first time I was advised by some Caucasian gentleman that I might need only a half tank of gas and should move on.

I was twenty the first time I was asked if I was an “affirmative action hire.”

I was twenty three the first time a grocery store owner asked to inspect my bag before leaving the store.

I was twenty five the first time I had a series of terrific phone interviews, but saw the change in an interviewer’s eyes upon first meeting, followed by the shortest interview on record.

I was twenty eight when a false alarm at my home led to the arrival of a couple of police cars, me being handcuffed in front of my then wife and neighbors, before I received an apology for the “misunderstanding.”

I was thirty the first time I began writing down the time, date, location, and taxi number of every working cab that passed me when I needed a ride home.  At the end of each week I sent dozens of incidents from the prior seven days to the taxi cab commission for investigation.  Eight months of letters, and nearly eight years later I’m still waiting for the call back.

I don’t know if it was the first time, but the first time I remember being told by a woman that she “doesn’t date black men” was when I was thirty two.

I was thirty four the last time I was confused for a valet, bellman, porter, busboy, etc. even though I was the boss*.

I was thirty six the last time someone asked for the manager and upon seeing me declared that they’d rather speak with someone in charge.

It was two weeks ago that I stood at the host stand of one the “best” restaurants in the city I was visiting when I was ignored by some past her prime flibidigibit.  A Caucasian couple entering after I did was greeted warmly and taken right to their table.

No one would call me a militant or an “angry black man.”** I have two advanced degrees from top universities, national recognition as an expert in my field, multiple publications to my credit, and am widely recognized in my city.  None of that protected me from all of the aforementioned slights and it didn’t protect Harvard Professor Skip Gates either.  There are two sides to every story, but history – mine, his, and the world’s – demand that the professor gets the benefit of all doubts.

* all of those jobs are noble and necessary occupations, and I wouldn’t be ashamed of any of them, but white guys in tailored suits aren’t often thought to work at those level jobs

** not that militancy or anger wouldn’t be a bit understandable


Housecleaning Friday…

17 July 2009

My new favorite text message: “It’s 5:30; do you know where you’re drink is?”

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The republicans are right: It is about time that Latinas end their long history of oppressing white men in this country.

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All of the people who complained about the disproportionate coverage of MJ’s death were right: the media never obsesses over the death of some people except the Billings, Joan Benet, Natalee Holloway, or too many other people to name.

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Even though I swore I wouldn’t return to Bar Dupont unless it was at the end of a Bayonet (apparently the end of a well wielded mascara wand was equally effective,) I went back recently and can confirm that it still sucks more than a hooker or a Hoover.

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I just found another reason to love a Canuck.  Margaret Wente may be a partisan ideologue but she sure is funny.

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When Screen on the Green was cancelled, I wrote this post questioning the existence of philanthropy and the moral bearings of the über wealthy.  Well SOG is back, and Richard Branson is doing a good turn too.  Virgin Festival is free this year – this almost makes up for that that reality television show he inflicted on the public back in 2004.

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Dear Chef from last night, my food ought not be a mini statue to your ego.  If I have to knock it down before I can eat it, you’re really just pissing me off.  I know that there are some people (usually with more money than good sense) who are easily impressed by the excessively whimsical aerosol spray in the mouth of a course – but do know that their numbers were small before the economic downturn and they are dwindling fast.  Rule of thumb – cook to satisfy the soul, the palette, and the eye in that order.

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To everyone that keeps asking about my Old Man, thank you again for your kind wishes and words.  He is rehabbing well and getting his ass kicked at backgammon by the home healthcare nurse that I love.


The Underlying Truths that Set Me Free

15 July 2009

You’re a really terrific woman, but I don’t have time and space in my life to start something…

With you.

I am deeply attracted to you; the reason I didn’t stay the other night had nothing to do with that…

But everything to do with the fact that I had grown tired of you and wanted a cigar more than I wanted to get laid.

I could kiss you all night…

Except for when you press your face too hard against mine and I can feel your teeth pressing through my lips and threatening to draw blood.

I’d love to go with you to a Bastille Day Party…

But I wonder how much it will cost me since in the five times we’ve gone out (in at least as many weeks) you’ve had a dozen opportunities to open your wallet but never have.

I really sorry that I had to cancel dinner with you…

However, when I told you that I had to go deal with my ailing father again and you pouted about your new dress and cancelled plans, I learned everything I needed to know about you.

I’m really sorry that timing isn’t in our favor…

And that it never will be.


Ain’t Nothing but a Family Thing – Update

13 July 2009

Thank you to all of the people who sent my father and me kind wishes through your comments, emails, and other means too.  Dad is rehabbing as comfortably as a cantankerous old man can, and I am dealing with the sundry issues that accompany our troubled relationship and his illness as well as I can reasonably hope.

I have been back to see him twice and look forward to writing the second part of Ain’t Nothing but a Family Thing soon.

Thank you again for all of your good thoughts and wishes – they were felt from wherever you were sending them.


Ain’t Nothing but a Family Thing

8 July 2009

It was a charmed evening until I got the call.  My favorite date and I had lingered over a couple of cocktails and a cigar on one of my regular patios before cabbing a mile north for dinner at a frequent dining haunt.  It was a bit embarrassing as my out of town companion watched far too many people say hello to me before we could even get to a table (it’s just an industry thing.)

We had made our way through a couple of small plates and then I got a text message from my sister: Dad in the hospital with a blood clot behind the knee, call me, call him xxx-xxx-xxxx.

I excused myself as politely as anyone who had received that message could and went outside to call my old man.  We don’t talk often, and our conversation leaned more towards the clinical.

“What has the doctor told you?”

“How are you feeling?”

“What is the course of treatment?”

I say goodnight with the comfort that this is a “serious but routine” condition and that the drugs are the logical treatment.  I am distracted through the rest of dinner, my mind occupied with thoughts of Dad’s illness and how much it is going to cost me (you want to talk about the health care crisis in this country, bring it; because it’s draining my portfolio faster than I can make fun of Rachel Ray.)

Later the next morning, I get the call from a doctor informing me that “the clot has started to move; the pharmaceutical option is no longer feasible and we’ve scheduled emergency surgery for later today.”  I am assured that, just like the blood clot itself, the surgery is serious but routine.

I’ve woken from surgery to an empty chair next to me.  It’s more painful than the site of your incisions, and scarier than any demons I’ve faced.

As inconvenient (and unnecessary according to the docs) it was, I wasn’t going to let him wake alone.  As awkward as it was going to be sitting in a hospital room with a father with whom I have not had a good relationship in a more than a score of years, I had to make the drive.  As much as my feelings were conflicted, my choice was made.

My father was alone, and scared and wanted to be neither.  I was present and emotionally drained and didn’t have a choice about either.


Sanford and His Sons

29 June 2009

There are few universal truths in this world: Murphy’s Law, Occam’s Razor, Surliness of CVS employees, and the cruelty of children are among them.  I have been thinking about South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, and his indelicately handled affair in light of that last truth.

Click me for a timeline of indiscretion and malfeasance for those living under rocks for the past week.

The governor is father to four school age sons each of whom will most likely be subjected to additional cruelties at the hands and mouths of their classmates and peers.  Their father’s careless indiscretions are to be blamed for each taunt.

I was nine years old when I learned of both my parent’s infidelities.  My largely carefree existence was shattered – most fourth graders lack the ability to differentiate the shared aspects of parenthood versus the private acts of the parent.  In breaking faith with each other (and allowing me to learn of their breaches,) my mother and father broke faith with me too.  For the first time in my life, when either told me the sky was blue, I had to go outside to confirm it.  I became withdrawn, sullen, and refused to discuss the matter – not that either parent tried.  Friendships faded as I couldn’t embarrass my parents, my family with such disclosures. I picked fights to vent aggression.  It was a dark period in my life and one which still colors my parental relationships long after forgiveness came.

Now imagine trying to manage all of that on a public stage.  Imagine that all of your classmates, teammates, coaches, teachers, and playmates know your father is a philandering poseur.

Elected officials opt into a certain amount of public scrutiny, an easy choice to make for oneself.  However, they also make that choice for their children and in so doing ought to be committed to a higher standard or at least not getting caught in contradiction.  I will not comment about the damage Gov. Sanford has done to his marriage or to his wife – they are both adults and thus I consider the matter private.  Nor will I comment on the political/hypocritical elements as this has rarely been a political space*.

Governor, your meandering public apologies have been all over the news, but I hope you understand the damage you have done to your children.  I hope you understand how long of a shadow you’ve cast over their lives.  I hope you understand that your carelessness (in getting caught) has exposed your boys to trump leveling taunts from which there is no recovery.  Governor, I hope you know that all of their conversations can be ended with the question “Do you know where your daddy is?”

Where you gonna be, Governor?

P.S. Keith Olberman, you know I am generally a fan; but would you please stop appearing to enjoy this so much.

* Yes, I understand that there was a certain level of commentary inherent in the phrasing.