daily preciousness

Wednesday, January 31, 2001

open letter

Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Dear [insert boyfriend's name here],

You just left my apartment. I leaned up against the door for about 5 minutes after you walked out. I kept replaying the conversation in my head. Over and over again, I tried to come up with better replies or more thoughtful, insightful arguments to dissuade you. But I realize that no amount of rhetoric or debate could change the way you feel.

Let me tell you something about myself: I am a complete and total romantic. I have already imagined honeymoons and china patterns with a new beau by the second date. It's just part of my hyper-hopeful nature. Mainly, I think that's a good thing. The world needs more romantics. But it has its drawbacks, as well. Usually, I just end up beating a dead horse (the relationship), flailing it until I can't fillip it anymore. (To deliver a swift blow -- I used my new word today!)

Now, armed with the knowledge that I am a romantic fool, maybe you can see that it's best that you were kind enough to let me about your emotional state and lack of romantic leanings. You did right by your promise to "yoroshiku," or treat me with the utmost care and tenderness. (That's the Japanese word that I mentioned the other night when you called to tell me everything. I could hear your voice breaking. The static from the cell phone didn't hide the tension in your voice.)

Part of me wants to say, "Gee, that's the elaborate story anyone has ever told me just to break up with me -- I mean, all he had to do was say he wasn't interested. He didn't have to use the recent spate of terrorist bombings as an excuse. (Hint from Heloise: That's the part of me that uses humor as a defense mechanism against feeling bad about myself.)

Another part of me just whimpers a little and feels a whole heap of self-pity.

The majority of my spirit is very hopeful, however, that you'll let me be your friend and allow me to come to your aid during this difficult time. You mentioned that this is a difficult time for you because of the tremendous uncertainty that you're feeling. I can imagine what that must be like; it reminds me of the first time I crossed a river with white-water rapids.

In whitewater rapids, the large rocks that lie along the riverbed are rarely very sturdy -- the changing current causes them to shift from hour to hour, day to day. Therefore, they are really very unsteady. Each step I took, from one slippery rock to another, was a treacherous journey. As I began the crossing, I was holding somebody's hand, trying to help them. But when I noticed how difficult it was to take each step, I knew that I had to make the perilous crossing alone, using my hands to steady myself, totally unburdened by anyone else.

Maybe, like my river crossing, this is the time to take your journey alone. I can understand that. Sadly, it doesn't make it any easier for me.

Picking china patterns -- the part I said earlier -- that's a bit of a hyperbole. But I am a total romantic at heart. I did greedily envision some happiness between us, especially when we shared an intimate moment on la sofa d'amour not that long ago. I hope that experience wasn't entirely devoid of emotion on your part, because it was ripe with feelings on my end. Why did I have those feelings? Simple, really.

I am in awe of you; you are so incredibly beautiful to me, [insert guy's name here], inside and out. I say that without a hint of regret. I say it with conviction and longing and wonder. And, I suppose, I say it with a tinge of desperation. But I proclaim it, nonetheless. As I write these words, I see through blurry eyes that you weren't the only guy who cried tonight.

The mysterious February 13th thing I invited you to was an LSU student (non-discriminatory) kiss-in at midnight on the steps of the university bell tower.

If we'd lived in the 60s, I would have dressed you up in tie-dyed clothes, strung some daisies into a wreath and crowned you with them, listened to some freedom rock in my VW bug, then driven you to a kiss-in. I would have thrown a picnic basket in the front of the car, rolled down the windows and taken you for the ride of your hippie life.

Instead, we have to settle for a lame attempt at beating the world's record for kissing couples in 2001.

Anyway, I invited you to the kiss-in hoping that you might have feelings for me and that it would be a fun surprise. But in light of our recent conversation, I realize that it would be inappropriate for me to ambush you with that sort of thing. So I'll understand if you'd like to sit this one out.

(I've never been to one before and I've also only very, very rarely had a boyfriend on Valentine's Day. So I thought that I'd satisfy two goals on a single date. I'm nothing if not efficient in my romantic agenda-setting....)

I wanted this to be a non-stressful letter for you to read and for me to write. You don't deserve any more difficulty in your life right now. Or any excess uncertainty, for that matter. I hope I didn't add to it. But I wanted to express my feelings to you in a non-threatening, non-passive aggressive manner. (I can be sorta PA sometimes.)

At the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie, it's important for you to face all of this uncertainty right now. But don't fear the unsteady footing that this crossing may present you. It's part of being in a state of flux and a state of crisis. Use it to your advantage. The Chinese character for crisis is the radical for danger + the one for opportunity. Try to keep that in mind right now.

I wish I had some great pearls of wisdom for you right now. I wish I could end this note with something grand, inspiring, life affirming and smile inducing. But I can't. I'm just a simple, lonesome, romantic guy and all I can say is that if you need me, I remain

Right here if you need me,


Tuesday, January 30, 2001

wedding day

Just a first-person narrative I've been playing around with. First person to name the inspiration (hint: not the historical event itself, but rather a pop song) gets a prize!

Sicily Island was named after the big flood of '29. Grandmaw said the whole parish was underwater for the better part of the summer. Except for a little sliver of land that rose above the floodwaters. That's where they set up the town of Sicily Island a year later. Grandmaw and Grandpaw settled here in '33. They started up a stop 'n' shop -- called it Mayonnaise's, after my Grandpaw. (He got the nickname because he'd dollop spoonfuls of mayonnaise on near about everything. Not just cornbread and black-eyed peas.)

Now there's a place in Italy called Sicily. But as far as anyone can tell, Sicily Island don't have any Ay-talians in it. Maybe it's just a coincidence.

Coincidences – they're kind of funny. I've got a story about coincidences. I never paid 'em much attention 'til I got married. That was the day that I realized how some coincidences weren't really coincidences at all – they're just life's boomerangs that fly right back at you and hit you square in the face.

I was what you call a nervous bride. The morning of the wedding, I couldn't even stomach grits. I had a whole mess of butterflies up in my stomach. Mama said I had to have something, so I nibbled off two baby bites of a Krispy Kreme donut. That was all I could take in.

Daddy carried my train in his hand as I got into the pickup. After he laid it in my lap, he gave me a little kiss on the cheek. He turned on the radio. The newsman was talkin' about the president in Texas. The ride to the church flashed by. Next thing I remember is goin' up the crooked wooden steps of the Zorre Baptist Church. Then I was inside, looking down at the tiled floor. If you looked a certain way, you could see little crosses in the checkerboard tiles. It was like Jesus' own floor design, I remember thinking.

Right before I walked up the aisle with Daddy, Amy rushed in. My cousin Amy, who was supposed to help me with my wedding dress, came in late. As usual. She had overslept and smelled of Jack Daniels. (It was like her own personal perfume. Honestly, though, it did smell better than some of the old women in church. They smelled like gardenia bushes and Ben-gay.)

Daddy was busy tellin' me how I would always be his little girl and I thought to myself, "Yeah, it's more like I'll always be your "knocked-up little whore" -- that's what he called me when I first started to show a few months back.

So he stopped telling me that crap when Amy stormed in, wide-eyed, and tole us in excited church-style whispers. Anyway, Amy tole us they killed President Kennedy and I just flat fell out.

Daddy had to sort of prop me up and carry me outside the church. He and Amy laid me out in the front yard of Zorre Baptist. There I was, curled up like a little baby, rocking myself on the ground between the sheep and the oxen. The choir director, Jamie Girard, always set up the Manger Scene a week early. The baby Jesus was in the little manger right next to me, just staring up at me, as dumb and peaceful and pretty as you please.

Amy wasn't surprised I took it so bad. She knew how much I loved John and Jackie. For I don't know how long, I couldn't even speak. I just stared at the three wise men.

I don't blame Mama for not wantin' to announce the news to the congregation. I'm glad that Brother Tommy was at the other side of the church and didn't know what was going on. He prolly would've tole everybody right then and there, spoilin' my big wedding.

Everyone in the church was shufflin' their butts around on the pews, murmuring that I was going to go into labor right there. I was big, I guess – just over nine months -- so I can sort of see why they thought that. (Amy hadn't tole the congregation about the president, 'cause Daddy said not to.)

I was cryin' big old tears. Out of my nose, even. I had a big, bad case of the shock – there wasn't anything that Mama or Daddy could do to get me out of it.

Mama was just cooling me off with one of those "I'm a fan of Jesus" fans that funeral home buys for the church pews. It didn't help. Daddy was on the other side, next to the wise men, patting my hand. "It's gonna be alright, darlin,'" he kep' tellin' me. But I knew he was wrong. Dead wrong.

Brother French thought I was just nervous and started to lead everyone to singing "Oh, Happy Day." I could hear Mrs. French, the preacher's Mama, belting it out, off-key like she always did.

I remember staring up at the little angel that was strung up above baby Jesus. He was just swingin' in the slight breeze, squeaking a little in time with the hymn and staring down joyfully at me like I was the next Mary or something.

And – and you know what? Of all the times I've tole this story, I can't recall remembering this part before, until now – I just remembered it when I was thinkin' about that angel.... I was staring up at the angel and I sort of imagined what I must look like to him. I pictured it like this: I was laid out all in my milk white wedding dress, on the little grass snake green hill beside the driveway. I was pale. Prolly the same color as my dress. Mama, in her new pillbox hat, and Daddy, in his powder blue rental tux, on either side of me. Amy was sitting behind my head, stroking my hair and purring soft words into my ears. The big wise men were standing above us, just towering like wooden soldiers. And the angel began to spin around from some wind and the music swelled up with the last verse of the hymn. And my point of view was spinning, too, right along with the angel. It was like some kind of magic -- A good magic – for the first time in a long while.

This is gonna sound dumb, more dumb than when I saw myself through the eyes of that angel. But here it goes. John F. Kennedy was dead and I knew it was my fault. I might as well have been the one to pull the trigger.

That was the day when I found out what getting messed up in black magic can do. You see, I had worked what you might call a spell on Jackie.

I had always thought that she was just the most beautiful, classy lady ever. (Did you see her in her inargueation dress? Looked just like a queen!) I wanted to be like her in every little way. I even practiced standing the way she standed. And sitting like she sat, just goin' by what I saw on the TV. She had a really elegant way to her. She just sort of glided like she was on wheels. And so gracious. (Hard to believe she was a Yankee.)

So anyway, I wanted to get married to Johnny cause I was pregnant and all. So I made a wish by a full moon, on that 1963 Halloween night. I wished that Johnny would marry me and I could have just a little bit of happiness. (I figure I ain't never got my share during my whole life. There's been little demons just nibblin' away at he corners of my happiness since I been real little. When Daddy lost his job, when we lost my little sister, when I lost my virginity – I've lost more than I've ever gained. Can't say why. It just always worked out that way.)

And Jackie Kennedy had just about all the happiness in the world, I figured. So, it wouldn't matter if I just had a little bit of hers. That's what I thought, anyway.

So I worked me a spell on that Halloween night so I could have just a little bit of her happiness and git Johnny to marry me. And it worked. Johnny – the most irresponsible shit in town – said he'd marry me. I was shocked as I don't know what. I told him it was his kid. And it probably was, too.

Mama said that sometimes the worst lovers made the most babies. And Johnny was like minute rice – quick and a decent side dish, if you used a lot of butter on it. (We used Crisco, but you get general the idea.)

So there I was, with a church full of impatient relatives and friends, waitin' for me to waddle me and my pregnant belly inside so that I could marry Johnny, who nobody really liked anyway. But they knew I had to so I wouldn't have a bastard baby.

My bridesmaids were the most pissed off, cause they hated their bridesmaid gowns. Especially MaryLou. She said that avocado was a bad color for her cause she was a winter. I said, "Well, MaryLou, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but no color is your good color. You ain't a spring, summer, winter or fall. You're what we call an 'ugly.' There ain't no season for that. You're just ugly all year long! And the only reason I let you be my bridesmaid is because you're my step sister and Mama said I had to!"

Okay, I never said that to her, but I felt like tellin' her that. (She deserved it after gossiping about how Mama wouldn't be able to afford the material for my dress cause I was so big and pregnant like.)

Well, MaryLou was the first person standing at the front to run out to see what was goin' on, after a few minutes of whispering. She came out and Amy tole her what was going on. She said she'd sit in Brad's car until I was ready to "grow up and march in there." Well, I was in such a state that I couldn't even be mad at her, which was sayin' a lot, since I was usually mad at her. MaryLou got her boyfriend, Brad and they sat together in his new Chevrolet in the parking lot. She had her arms folded and Brad was pattin' her shoulder and talkin' with his mouth real close to her ear. Before long, I saw her leanin' her head toward his mouth. And then their heads sunk down below the dashboard. That Chevrolet started doin' a little jig before long.

By that time, I was standing up again. I had essplained to Mama and Daddy and Amy what I'd done. I tole them I was the one that killed Kennedy. They just kep fannin' and pattin' me like I was a little baby. I stopped breathing so fast and I didn't feel so light-headed.

(To be continued.)

Monday, January 29, 2001

karaoke rewrite

Going to Karaoke Thursday. I spent the weekend preparing. I have been practicing a Frank Sinatra classic. But I've reworked it a little for a modern audience.

Variations on "Strangers in the Night"

Writer(s): Kaempfert/Singleton/Snyder & Brady

Strangers in the night exchanging glances

Wond'ring in the night

What were the chances we'd be sharing bodily fluids

Before the night was through?

Something in your pants was so inviting,

Something in your pants was so exciting,

Something in my pants,

Told me I must have you.

Strangers in the night, two lonely,

lonely, lonely people in the night

Up to the moment

When we said our first hello.

Little did we know

Sex was just a glance away,

A warm embracing grope away and -

Ever since that night I've never seen you.

Lovers for a night, in love for an hour or two?

It turned out -- well alright,

For strangers in the night.


And later, after a few hours of hot,

sweaty monkey love, we

acted out the roles from one of my

favorite Gilligan's Island episodes.

You played the professor and I

played MaryAnne. You had invented a

two-way radio from coconuts and seaweed.

Do you remember?

Then, after we toweled off, we watched

the Cartoon Network.

And do you remember what we saw?

We saw Scooby-dooby-doo...

And you put your arms around me and

told me your name. But I wasn't really

listening because we were at the part

where the bad guy says, "And I would've

gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been

for you meddling kids!" Well, that's my favorite

part. So I forgot your name. Sorry. My bad.

But, If you'd like to get together again

sometime, just come over and have a word

with me. I'll be sitting over in this area of

the bar. Thanks for your time.

I apologize for slaughtering a Sinatra

classic. I accept bribes to NOT sing again!

Saturday, January 27, 2001

my genius at forgetting

What's the difference, do you think, between a hopeless romantic and someone who's utterly divorced himself from reality? I wonder if it is the quality or the quantity of his romantic notions.

If the difference is primarily of quality of dreams, hopes and wishes, then I am guilty of foolishness. And, in terms of my relationship with reality, I'm the prototypical gay divorcee. Call me a fool. I'm comfortable with that label. I got a dunce cap for my last birthday a few months ago. I have more than earned the right to wear it.

The quality of my dreams -- what a rich mound of fertilizer that is! Let me share with you some of my most recent and most stupid dreams:

I would be hired from a recent internship because I'm just too good to pass up.

Guys I met in bars would contact me when they say they will. Because I would be worth it.

Somebody -- anybody -- would want to spend time with me on a weekend.

The hopes I had for a comfortable friendship with an ex would be realized.

I could have good timing -- just for once in my life.

Laugh, laugh. Snicker, snicker. Not gonna happen. Any of it.

I wonder -- is it the quantity of my divergences from real life that make me a dreamer? How many times must I veer off into my own carefully constructed reality before I realize that I am full of complete and utter bull?

On an average day, I probably have a consciousness/reality bifurcation rate of 3 to 5 times per hour. My mind drifts constantly. I must suffer from a new disorder, just recently discovered (by me). I am a victim of RADD (reality attention deficit disorder). I want a scholarship and handy parking from now on.

I guess it all boils down to this: I am almost 30 and I've only been in love twice. And only once were the feelings mutual. I am so certain that I'll find another barrel of good loving right around the corner that practically every guy I can have a decent conversation with is fodder for my idiotic romantic fantasies. And so I dream about them at night. And I dream about them when I'm awake.

When the beau du jour leaves a message on the machine, I save it and listen to it a dozen times. When I get a sweetly penned e-mail, I read it twice a day. I download image files of his picture and set it to my desktop. I am a hopeless, hapless romantic.

The champagne is going to my head. But that's okay. It clarifies things a little bit.... I don't hate myself for being so romantic. I'm just annoyed at myself for not realizing how overly optimistic I've been for most of my life.

It's unbridled optimism.... I guess that just comes from having it so easy and being surrounded by so much love early on. I guess I just assume that I'll always find a similar volume of love in my life.

But I have to wonder -- will I? Am I worthy of so much attention and splendiferous affection? If I am, then when do I get hitched with a really great guy who can offer me as much as I (supposedly) can offer him?

I am full of questions. And full of ignorance about my own nature.

From now on, I will proudly wear my dunce cap. Why? I'm an esoteric Buddhist at heart. And second-guessing oneself is only an acolyte sport. By now, I'm a more seasoned believer. Like some sort of living koan, I will simply be one with my incredible ignorance.

Because of this, my ignorance can be an asset. I will quote Beckett as he laughs off rivals, even amidst in his own destruction:

"My inability to absorb, my genius for forgetting, are more than they reckoned with. Dear incomprehension, it's thanks to you I'll be myself, in the end. Nothing will remain of all the lies they glutted me with."

Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Brit invastion

At 30,000 feet, it hit me. I was on my flight home from D.C. -- in cattle class -- when I realized that Cathy was coming soon. I would only have two days to clean up the apartment. But I knew it would take more than a casual dusting. It would take a major cleanup. Why? The british were coming.

Cathy and I were on the JET scheme together, teaching English in Japan a few years back. When I was in London, she put me up (or put up with me, depending on how you look at it) and went out of her way to show me a good time. I wanted to return the favor.

So Cathy and Angie, her friend from work, came to Baton Rouge to see the sights. We saw a plantation home, the rural life museum and the old state capitol, in addition to eating at some nice restaurants. I really shocked myself by loving the blackened grilled alligator at Mulate's landing and restaurant. Not being much of a meat-eater, I reluctantly nibbled a little piece of it. It was amazing. Really delicious. The waiter, a strapping young lad with deep-set eyes and a friendly manner, had informed us that it was "farm raised" gator -- none of that tough, swamp-bred stuff for Mulates. It was amazing. I nearly ate the entire appetizer myself. The girls hardly had a chance to try it. I was just out of control. My rationalization was this -- gators are carnivores, so what's another death, really, when you think about it?

During our first day of being tourists, I was pleasantly surprised by the transport. We drove to a plantation home in Cathy's rent-a-car. I was shocked at how slowly and carefully she was driving. The last time I'd ridden with her, we were speeding towards a birthday party in a little town an hour away from London. I can clearly recall my life flashing before me, a vivid series of moments from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood. The scenes in my mind were moving as quickly as the English countryside was outside the car window.

But this time, on my turf, Cathy drove very carefully, obeying all the traffic laws. I actually encouraged her to speed up a bit, but she steadfastly refused my suggestions. Instead, she made her way through the winding roads of River Country without haste or impatience.

We soon arrived at Oak Alley. The trees framing the house were very charming. Inside the house, incense candles made for an inviting touch. The tourguide was actually very good. I was impressed at her depth of knowledge. It was obvious that although she was young, she wasn't simply reading from a script. She had some background on the time period when the house was built. And our little tourgroup consisted of us, a gay couple and a straight-looking couple. It was very small and comfortable -- not one of these huge busload sized tourgroups. It went by very quickly and we soon found ourselves outside the warm and cozy house. The wind had picked up a little and I was thoroughly cold outside. There was even a sheet of ice on the water troughs. Brrr!

The next day, I brought them to the Rural Life Museum, which is actually where I take all my international guests. (Doesn't that sound pretentious? Cathy and Angie are the second pair of international out-of-towners that I've taken there. I took some French guests there, too, not that long ago.) They seemed to like it. The slave cabins and the simple acadian home showed them how simple life could be: bare walls, nearly bare floors, absolute necessity was the order of the day. It was a stark contrast to Cathy's (and even to my own little) Gucci existence.

Sunday they left Baton Rouge for New Orleans. They wanted to ride the riverboat, go to a voodoo shop, see the above-ground crypts and, of course, undergo extensive retail therapy along the Riverwalk Shops. Monday afternoon, after work, I joined them for a little nightlife fun in the Big Easy.

First, I showed them the W. It's a hyper-trendy hotel where everyone wears black and the concept of simplicity is next to godliness. The hotel lobby looks like a set from a movie -- sleek furniture, elegantly modern lines and distinctly Japanese touches, well beyond the Ikea sensibility. It's almost got a German feel to it, but not quite so cold. All in all, a great experience. I was happy to plop down $25 for 3 cocktails. I was helping to fund a truly cool and elegant establishment.

Next, I took them on a mini-tour of the land-based casino in downtown New Orleans. After the 3-minute walk through the clouds of tobacco and the atmosphere of pension checks being wasted, we found our way to Canal Street.

I took them to a little out-of-the-way spot that doesn't make it on many a tourist's list of things to do. There's this little street just off Canal that has a flavor all its own. It's a little area I like to call "Bourbon Street."

It's this area of New Orleans that has its own little microcosm. It's always entertaining. You never know who you'll meet or hook up with there.

So I take them to Oz, which is supposedly among the top five gay bars in the country. They're celebrating Monday night with a gong show. With each drink, you get a chance to be in the show. If you don't have a talent, you will have to "name that tune." Of course, after the many G&Ts, red bulls and other cocktails the girls and I wolf down, we would win a spot on the program. An uber-campy 50-year old guy with a Minnie Pearl hat and a vicious yet rather glam dragqueen from hell were the host and hostess. The ... um ... "lucky" contestant had to share the spotlight with these two attention-hungry divas. Not very pretty. The drag queen was truly evil, making nasty jibes at everyone in the room and especially at the contestants. I feared the worst.

It happened.

The girls, claiming that "British people don't do this sort of thing," elected me as representative, pushing me up to the stage.

Evil drag queen barked that I looked like Forrest Gump. (I think she was referring to my very short haircut -- which does look rather unfortunate, I have to admit.) Then they played some awful pre-80s disco music that I'd only ever referred to as "that music that I makes me want to leave the dance floor when they play it." I didn't know what it was. The mean man said they ought to revoke my gay license and seemed genuinely upset that I didn't appreciate the rather foul, course music. Fortunately, the drag queen helped me out by whispering "funky town." (I wouldn't have otherwise known it.) So I won a chance to play pachinko. It was sort of like a game on TV's "Price is Right," but without the spaying and neutering. I won on my first attempt and got a gift certificate for $100 at a hardware store. Exciting stuff! Now, if only I (A) knew where it was and (B) would be in New Orleans one day soon to spend my free money! We'll see.

After my traumatizing experience with the vicious drag demon, I was happy to get back on the barstool and drink red bull, a new energy drink. We talked and laughed for a while. Then Angie gets it in her head that I must approach some guy tonight so that I can "pull." (What a great British euphemism that one is!)

"Who do you fancy, then, love?" she asked, oh so beguilingly. Then, following my eyes to the hunk du jour, she said that I had until the end of the next song to go over and "chat him up." But I couldn't do it. I was tired and lacked self-confidence. And I didn't even feel like "pulling" anyone that night. However, Angela was resolved to be Yenta-like at any cost. So, she started a countdown, then proceeded to act like a highschool girl relating my crush on him. It was mortifying. And delightfully fun at the same time.

What awful luck. The beautifully sculpted Adonnis I had my eye on was married. He pointed to his ring finger, banded, and just gave me an innocent smile. His name was Costa, from the former Soviet Republic. He was from Russia with Lust. What a delicious man! I introduced myself in Russian and explained that I loved the language, worked in a library and enjoy listening to the radio. (This is the extent of my Russian -- I can't remember much because I studied it in high school way, way back in 1989.) Costa was polite, but fled the scene as quickly as he could. I don't blame him. I suppose Angela and me make a potent combination of good intentions and sexual predatorship. We were a naughty duo. But I blame her, mainly because I'd never hit on anyone like she was doing. Mind you, I don't blame her in a bad way. It's just that it's not my style of good communciation to approach people that way.

After several hours of dancing, we made it back to the hotel by 3. I was in bed by 3:30 and slept soundly (despite the snoring) until 7, when I had to get up and leave for Baton Rouge.

Work the next day was a blur of call numbers and patron faces. I don't really recall doing very much. Granted, the online public access terminals were down, so I couldn't do any updating of records or any such business. So I mainly just did shelving and very low-key tasks.

Sleep tonight will be a wonderful thing. And I'll sleep soundly, knowing that Cathy and Angie had a good time in Louisiana. They'll leave tomorrow morning first thing. And then, the british invasion will be over.

Until the next time I see them, anyway.

Thursday, January 18, 2001

houseguests and fresh bread

Just got back from my first class of my LAST SEMESTER in graduate school. How great is that? Only a few more weeks to go and I've got my MASTERS DEGREE. I will know how Bobo, the chimp felt. Then I get to go and find a job and work for the MAN all day. Maybe I'll even get a cubicle somewhere! Ooooh. Joy, thy name is gainful employment.

I'm in a lively mood. I just bought a whole mess of food -- $104 worth -- to prepare the house for my guests from London.

Cathy and I were in Japan together. She reminds me of Patsy from "Absolutely Fabulous" because she loves her G&Ts (only to be made with real Bombay Gin, darling). She also has a lot of fun and gets away with being a touch obnoxious because she's so smart and sassy.

She's bringing along a female friend that I don't know, but I look forward to meeting. Should be good fun.

Tomorrow, I'll show her Baton Rouge and Saturday and Sunday, we'll do New Orleans. Plenty to see and do there. I bet she'd love to go clubbing. I would. It's been WEEKS since I set foot into a disco. Going through withdrawal symptoms, really.

For breakkers tomorrow, I'm making cranberry spice wheat bread. I hope it turns out good. Otherwise, we're having eggs. That would be boring. Bread for breakfast rocks like a hooker on crack. And you can't go wrong with that for breakfast.

Hugs to all my homies,


final days

My final days in the city were a blur. Quick cuts. Jumps and starts. Flashes of light. Events and images careened by me and I had no time to react. My head was spinning. And it wasn’t the alcohol this time, either.

Maybe it was the conference and the days leading up to it. Or was it simply my feverish efforts to establish a meaningful contact in the Dupont Circle area? Either way, I can’t really recall everything that happened after my New Year’s activities.

Here is an attempt to piece together some of the moments I can remember:

The freaky girl at work who constantly talks to herself gets even freakier. When I first arrived, she spoke to herself in hushed, clipped tones. I did my best to ignore it. But familiarity breeds – well – familiarity ... and she decided that she’s completely comfy with thinking out loud in my presence. So I get plenty of atmospheric mental static from her. She just busts out with non sequitor gems like, "Time to sit down now," "Let’s see, where was I?" "I need some new stamps!" But with the new year and the fact that she’s more comfortable around me, her occasional trickle of comments has increased to a more steady shower. I suppose the added stress of her family’s poor health and her military HMO troubles didn’t help matters.

... When she wasn’t talking to me, she was busy ripping to shreds the harmony quotient in our little cubicle neighborhood. She did this by calling every health care provider available in a five-block radius of the office to complain about her service. And she’s not a very good complainer. She’s the sort that leads to irate postal workers. I sometimes wondered if she complained as a means to an end or simply as a means to be mean. It’s her brand of course, unrefined bitchiness that gives intelligent bitchiness a bad name. And I got an earful of it almost all day at the office.

... My letter to Laura Bush goes through the process of revision in good shape. The letter is mostly a pat on the back about her literacy and education advocacy efforts. Here’s the recipe for the missive:

1 pound of misty-eyed sentiment about "working for our children,"

1/2 cup of informed speculation about her plans to continue her campaign,

3 tablespoons of "coalition building is essential to agenda setting and policy enactment,"

2 teaspoons of schmoozing for good measure.

My supervisor, his supervisor and the powers that be all approve. So the president of the organization signs it and I get a new piece of writing for my portfolio.

And the First lady gets a letter from Jeffrey. Smiles all around. End of story.

Saturday, January 06, 2001

welcome... to the future!

There is a box of styrofoam drink cups in the office lounge. In big, bold caps, the box proclaims, "New! Now with no-slip easy-grip sides! Patented easy-hold design! Hot OR Cold!" Well, right then and there, I decided that I am living in an age of miracles.

As we all know, the 20th century was a terrible time for people who consume fluids through container-based methods. Most of the time, the cups weren't designed for use with hot drinks. If they were suitable for such high temperatures, you inevitably found yourself wanting a cool beverage. And you were stuck with hot-only containers. It was a no-win situation.

If you did happen to have the correct cup, then it usually just slipped out of your hand before you could drink out of it. Blame it on poor manual muscle control. Or just blame it on faulty cup design. (Lawsuit, anyone? If people can win lawsuits based on injuries sustained because they drank hot coffee, then reason would dictate that slippery cups could eventually lead to multi-million dollar settlements as well.)

Now if you were lucky enough to have a cup that was temperature-compatible with your drink and wasn't so slippery that it would plummet to the earth before your first sip, you knew that it would be easily copied by some third world manufacturer and the original producer would go out of business fast.

But now, during this wonderful new year, decade, century and millenium, we finally have the best of all cup worlds: the no-slip, easy-grip, patented easy-hold design cup, which works with hot OR cold drinks! What a wonderful time to be alive! We can shout outloud from the hilltops and sing it from the valleys: "New! Now with no-slip easy-grip sides! Patented easy-hold design! Hot OR Cold!"

I think I'm going to cry.

Welcome to the future.

Thursday, January 04, 2001

new year's eve

New Year's Eve started late for me. I left the house at 8:30 p.m. It was a cool night, around 29 degrees. But the wind was not howling around as it had been during the last few days, so it was pleasant enough. At my busstop, I hesitated before plopping myself down on the bench to wait. I realized that I could simply walk the 3 miles to the party. It was a safe enough neighborhood and I knew that the police would be careful about people walking around it at night. The road to the party was Washington DC's Embassy Row.

It's located on Massachusettes Avenue between Wisconsin and Dupont Circle. Dotted along the street of distinguished, ivy-walled buildings were scores of embassies and consulates. Behind their security gates and privacy fences stood the offices and residences of diplomats, beaurocrats and countless others. Walking in this area at night put me in the mood of a Le Carre novel. Among the shadow-dappled streets, countless dangers plagued me. Was that man trailing me? Why was that car passing by at such a suspiciously slow pace? Did I just hear the whir of a surveillance camera tracking my every move? My imagination got the better of me and I nervously hummed my way through to a better lighted area. The official theme song for 2000 for me had to have been "Chanson." So I sang/hummed it half a dozen times.

Before long, I came across a crowd of people. Just off Observatory Court, where the old star-gazers building stood on a small hill, was the Navy Court area. This is where the vice-president's home is located. And right outside his gates, I saw the guests for his New Year's Eve party. The line was long and snaked down the block around the far corner. For a few moments, I considered crashing the festivities, then I eyed the tent and mini-garrison that the Secret Service set up. I prudently vetoed that idea.

A few more moments and I passed the garish Japanese consulate. The old office is fairly hideous and doesn't really endure the viewer to this example of Japanese corporate "style." (I use the term loosely.) Behind it, beyond a little court, is the Ambassador's house. I wonder if they're busy observing the same new year's rituals that I used to enjoy. Roasting mochi over a fire, sipping gold-leaf sake and nibbling fresh hothouse strawberry ricecakes. Such exotic tastes. I wonder if I'll experience them again in 2001? (Who knows?)

Right before I cross Sheridan Circle, I veer to the left and walk up R Street. This is where the party is located. Along this slightly less fashionable neighborhood of businesses and homes, the visitor can find the second- and third-tier embassies. States without the benefit of big bucks (or pesos or pesetas) have to snag these low-rent buildings so that they can at least maintain some sort of presence in Washington.

A few of them observe the holidays with simple wreaths or trimmings. But most have nothing. Several have year-round decorations celebrating the works of their famous artists. One of my favorites is a small park with the words and bust of Kahlil Gibran. His beautiful words grace the backs of stone park benches and face a small fountain with an arab design encircling it. It's a delightful, pastoral spot located near the Rock Creek parkway.

Before long, I find myself in the Neighborhood of Dupont. This is arguably one of the most interesting areas of DC. And it's where my party was located.

I step up to an impressive brownstone with an etched glass door. The host that I don't know, David, buzzes me in and welcomes me. The other host, Alex, a friend of an acquaintance, is busy dressing. I quickly see Maurizio, my ice skating pupil from the other day, munching down on snacks. He's animated as usual and gives me a warm hug hello.

The apartment is amazing. It's grandly but tastefully appointed. Very smart artwork on the walls - but nothing is gauche or overdone. "Restrained elegance" is how I would describe it. David is a restauranteur. Apparently, he's a successful one. His personality is very direct. Pointedly so. But he's a good host and doesn't skewer me with anything more than a few (relatively gentle) accusations. (He totally clocked me, pointing out that I didn't seem as shy as I claimed I was. I get that a lot. Not sure why. I guess I'm outgoing enough to hide the fact that I'm basically a wallflower.)

There were dozens of really friendly, really intelligent people (guys, mostly) there. It was a pleasure just to sit and talk with them. I was glad to have actual conversations with people, instead of the usual chitchat that passes for conversation at parties these days. Had I been desperate enough to sink to chitchat, the amazing food and drink or the gorgeous surroundings would have provided ample fodder for it.

The atmosphere was friendly. I talked with Doug, a Clint Eastwood type who works at the Congress. He's connected to the National Forest System somehow. The buzz is that he might be appointed by George W. as the next #2 at the Department of Agriculture. The previous night, I spent an evening at his rustic home in Capitol Heights. He's neighbors with senators and other Congressional workers. Great neighborhood. He and I made a warm, crackling fire together for the previous night's get together. Pleasant guy, Doug. I enjoyed making him laugh and I suspect we have a very similar sense of humor.

Next I met Lord Michael, a guy who was in town for just a few days. He was in town on vacation, but I bet he was doing something with the British Embassy. When he mentioned he went to Ogggsford (that's how he pronounced it!), I told him that I'd went there as well. He politely tried to suppress his astonishment. I waited a few beats before I admitted "…as a tourist." He gave me a bemused smile.

I talked with Donna, an aesthetician who gave great massages. I think she's the first aesthetician I've ever met who called herself that. Most the time, they call them "beauty school graduates" in the South. She was sassy and really reminded me of Karen from TV's Will & Grace. Of course, I easily got in touch with my inner sass and we got along famously.

"The other" Jeffrey from Louisiana was there. He's from Slidell (poor dear) and I thought should have been a smidgen more friendly to his fellow state escapee. Of course, he's living in DC now. Lucky jerk. He talked about American Airlines, his employer. While he was incredibly intelligent, intense and handsome, I couldn't really enjoy talking with him because it was hard to get a word in edgewise. But I told him what a funny train they have at Dallas Fort Worth - it's the transport that is sponsored by Amerian Airlines. It's called the "trAAin" and I told him it was fun to say (with an elongated "a" sound): "I'm going to catch the 'trAAin!'" Laughter, applause. What wit, Jeffrey, oh dear!

Brent, a friendly 30-something from the State Department, talked with me about cultural exchange programs. He was in charge of the high school educational and cultural exchange programs that send U.S. kids abroad all over the world. Right now, he's working with several eastern European countries. He couldn't speak any Russian or any other languages, except for Spanish. I gave him my usual little sample of Russian and he was mightily impressed. Or at least pretended to be.

The hours passed speedily and I found myself unprepared for the final seconds of 2000. Dick Clark's voice was amplified after someone picked up the remote control, drowning out the sounds of the party. The Ageless One laughed and steered us quickly into the final countdown. The last seconds came to an end and the flurry of kisses began. Like the tickertape and streamers falling onto Times Square, a storm of kisses fell upon me as I made my way around the room. It was great. I bubbly with all the smiles and kisses. A few of the people had just arrived, so I outstretched my hand, introduced myself, shook on it, then proceeded to kiss their grinning lips. It was great - the only time of year that you can get away with that sort of flirting.

Champagne corks popped. The good cheer flowed freely into our flutes and glasses. Whilst waiting for the bottle to get to my side of the thirsty circle, I made my New Year's resolutions:

1 Have more fun.

2 Be sillier in public.

3 Drink more champagne.

4 Introduce myself to strangers.

5 Be bold in business.

The hosts made toasts and we downed three bottles of the dry stuff before we knew it. (I call it the dry stuff because the next morning, after only having 3 or 4 glasses, I was so dehydrated that I could hardly open my eyes. They were nearly stuck shut!)

I talked with Brent some more about State Department matters. He said that they give him random drug tests all the time and that when he started, the bureau did extensive background checks on him, interviewing practically everybody in his family and most of his friends. ("What an inquisitve piece of furniture!" I squealed. "What were the filing cabinets like?" He laughed, slightly confused but highly amuzed.)

Soon, our hosts soon decide to go out to a bar, after a few massages are doled out by Donna the magnificent masseuse. We begin the 3-block journey before the elderly (40 years old) David announces, "I'm not gonna walk that far! It's freezing out here!" In his self-described "midlife crisis shirt," a clingy black tea that showed off his biceps, he had an expensive black leather jacket. I sat on his lap in the cab. During the quick trip, I told him what I wanted for Christmas and he pronounced me "a good little boy."

At the bar, Doug bought drinks for everyone and I felt very decadant sipping on water "with gas," as my English textbook used to call it. Refreshing.

The bar, called the Lizard Lounge, was spacious and not too terribly crowded. We mingled and talked. I think I was the only one who enjoyed the music. It was the first place I've ever heard "Discoteca," a song the Pet Shop Boys made a few years back. Great to finally hear it through big speakers. It was a pounding, thumping, joyful tune with a great Brazilian beat. Very festive. I grinned ear to ear and mouthed out the words, drag queen style. I was actin' a fool, as I'd promised that I would do in my list of resolutions.

Before long, it was time to go. I went home and got to bed around 4:30. I woke up at 2:30 the next afternoon. I joined Brent for a lunch at the Burro burrito factory. (I chose a meatless burro burrito. Pack animals tend to be so stringy.)

Although we wanted to catch "Best in Show," a hilarious dog show mockumentary, it wasn't playing for another 2 hours. So we decided to save it for another day. I went home and quickly fell asleep after reading the middle chapter of "Memoirs of a Geisha." It was a great New Year's celebration.