daily preciousness

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

you go to my head

In case you didn't know, Billie Holiday is amazing. She's been on my heavy rotation list for about a month now. Sure, I listened to her before, but lately I've got a bad case of can't get it out of my head. Appropriate, no?

Go, Billie...

You go to my head,

And you linger like a haunting refrain

And I find you spinning round in my brain

Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne.

You go to my head

Like a sip of sparkling burgundy brew

And I find the very mention of you

Like the kicker in a julep or two.

The thrill of the thought

That you might give a thought

To my plea casts a spell over me

Still I say to myself: get a hold of yourself

Can't you see that it can never be?

You go to my head

With smile that makes my temperature rise

Like a summer with a thousand Julys

You intoxicate my soul with your eyes

Though I'm certain that this heart of mine

Hasn't a ghost of a chance in this crazy romance,

You go to my head.


The way she sings the line, "Though I'm certain that this heart of mine hasn't a ghost of a chance..." just breaks me down. I can't help but get a little teary-eyed. That particular line really hits home for me, since my typical romantic experience involves plunging into love, head-first, without a safety net or safety floaties. This is fine, but when it's not reciprocated, it can be a wee bit on the painful side.

Saturday, October 19, 2002


“Jambalaya, crawfish pie, file gumbo… for tonight I’m gonna see my cherami-o!”

That’s a line from the Hank Williams song that used to be my most requested hit at karaoke. These days, I don’t get many requests for that song. But two weeks ago, I got a request for the first item on that little list. Laurie, the neighbor of my pal Henry, asked when I was going to “cook up some jambalaya” for her. I told her I would. So I did it last night.

I made no less than three trips to the grocery store to gather up all the goods for the evening. And I got three Louisiana music CDs from work.

Mitchell was so sweet – he must’ve spent about two hours cleaning the downstairs for me. He also scoured his collection of party ware (platters, plates, etc.) The living room was spotless. It was the first time in months that I’d actually seen the floor in there. Impressive work!

I was disappointed that Mitchell only made a brief appearance. I’d genuinely hoped that he and the other assorted roomies, Joe and Jerry, would’ve joined in.

(Joe – an understated 20-something polling researcher who has very deep-set eyes. I’d originally considered him “too straight ‘n’ boring to live with,” but I’ve since rescinded that judgment. He’s wiry with mouse-brown hair.)

(Jerry – a heavy-set friend of Mitchell’s who claims to be staying at the house only temporarily. But he’s friendly and has a ready smile. I think he’s a good conversationalist, too, although I haven’t had a chance to find out if I’m correct in that initial assessment. Jerry enjoys morning coffee on the back patio, where he smokes and throws cigarette butts into an unused planter.)

The guests arrived at 7:45. David, a diminutive little guy with a cute face and a tiny hearing impairment, arrived early and helped me make a salad. He brought five tiny containers of salad dressing – enough for everybody to choose their own flavor. How sweet. He also brought along his cheerful spirit. I was happy that he arrived first, since I hadn’t really had a chance to get to know him last time.

This evening was the second installment of our little dinner club. Henry invited us over two Tuesdays ago for a gorgeous meal with grilled veal and mashed polenta and a delicious spinach salad. The food was amazing. And the company was great, too. So Laurie half-joked when we’d have the “next meeting” of our dinner club. It had come out earlier in the evening that I was of Louisianian heritage. So the next evening, the “Jambalaya with Jeffrey” event was born.

Jason, Henry’s massage therapist/holistic healer hottie boyfriend with the amazing cheekbones, and his friend Sasha, a sassy café au lait woman with an espresso personality, ducked out almost as soon as they arrived. They went to procure wine.

Before long, they were back with some perfectly suited wine for jambalaya. I was impressed! It was delicious.

Henry was in a great mood, because he’d just been granted “Top Secret” security status at work. (This was a long-awaited clearance – he’d had to endure interviews, interrogations and background checks for the last two years!)

The other reason why Henry had a sparkle in his eye (well, more than usual) was the fact that he had a little Top Secret to share with me. Well, it wasn’t really a secret – it was something that I’d suspected. His friend, Cristian, whom I’d met at a recent awards ceremony, had just asked me out for dinner.

Naturally, I plied Henry with questions about said Cristian… it was my own little background check of the prospective suitor variety.

Like I told Henry, it was increasingly rare for me to meet somebody for the first time in R/L who would ever want to see me again. (R/L is the geek chic way for romantically inclined internauts to refer to a “real life” meeting of people who’ve communicated only by electronic means.)

The mid-week party was a real boost for me, since I’d felt kind of down Monday and Tuesday. There’s been a string of sniper attacks in the metro area, so local schools are in “Code Blue” mode, not letting the kids out to play. So I’ve had two school groups cancel their trips to the library. My story-times were desolate! I stood their, facing the empty arena style seating of the story pit, engaging an empty room in the enchantment of tales well told. (At least I entertained myself!)

To homosexualize a hackneyed phrase, “A fabulous time was had by all.” Yes, I know that’s a cliché of a cliché of a passive voiced statement.

But let’s face it -- I’m just a dangerous motor scooter of a writer and I don’t care whom I offend! Ha! That’s what you call reckless endangerment of good taste – at least that’s what I call it.

And that was my jamblaya party.

*** *** *** *** ***

Late breaking news: I was just typing that last paragraph when a loud blast echoed through the street of Mt. Vernon here in Del Ray. The two other customers in the coffee shop stared nervously at the bay window of the shop. After the six shootings around the area, people are easily rattled by loud noises. What was once an exhaust noise is now a serious threat to public safety!

A headline in the Washington Post proclaims that the “gunman doesn’t conform to usual patterns, experts say,” as if there could be anything “usual” about somebody going on a shooting spree!

During moments like this, I often think back to the peace and safety of my mountaintop Buddhist home in Koyasan. There was no gun violence there, mister! Although gun advocates and the NRA don’t want to hear it, I lived comfortably in the gun-free country of Japan. The Japanese often regarded Americans as savage because of capital punishment and our liberal, permissive gun laws. And I would just shrug my shoulders and shake my head when they’d ask why we allowed such violent objects around. “It’s in our Constitution,” I would tell them; “We can’t outlaw it.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

waffle or tart?

How clearly I can see the cobbled streets of Brussels in my mind’s eye. Small puddles flood the cobblestone, mirroring the lapis sky.

There’s a marmalade cat meowing insistently for scraps of fish. His tail is stubby – the tail of a stray. The waiter with jagged sideburns sucks on his cigarette and meows back. At five paces away, the cigarette’s stygian smoke invades my naïve American nostrils, mingling with the earthy scent of the damp streets. Indulgently, the waiter throws a scrap of fish at the cat, rubs against his legs in response. I smile and turn a corner.

That’s where I see the sign, its once-vermillion lettering faded to rusty red. That’s where my story begins.

“When I first saw the sign for the waffles, I thought, ‘Wow, what perfection! They’re named after me!’” I said to the gathering at the dinner party, about my time in Belgium.

The country’s famous bit of breakfasty goodness – their waffles -- are called “gaufre,” which I thought had a soft “G” sound, rendering it something along the lines of “Jhaw-FREH.” I smiled and let the humor of my little story soak in. [Giggles all around…]

“Oh, Jeffrey,” the host of the party teased, “THAT’S not the pastry that we would associate you with at all!”

And so begins my rumination (read: rant ‘n’ ramble) on being a tart. “What, Jeffrey?” you ask in feigned shock, “you’re a tart?”) Yes, I’ll admit it: it’s a part I enjoy acting.

It’s a natural Social Lubricant. And, unlike the typical drink or drug, being a tart is a precious human resource. It’s my best resource for making people comfortable around me. They know that I’m comfortable with the natural expression of my sexual being.

Sure, it’s my duty to use my awesome tart powers (more or less) responsibly. I admit that much. But it’s also my duty to use them liberally, while I still can. Otherwise, they would atrophy and offer no entertainment value.

Every now and then, I use it recklessly and with great abandon. Such was the case Saturday night when I dined and clubbed with David. At the cozy club Cobalt, I sat and socialized with David and his cheerful, friendly pal, Michael. David’s with the SEC and Michael’s works at a private primary school.

Soon after we arrived, I scoped out and then pounced on the most important piece of social real estate in the entire establishment… the leather lounge in the red room. Yes, the red room.

You know the one. It’s the comfy spot with the over-the-top red velvet curtains and gold tassle trim. The whole feel of the place is “quirky modern art meets a 1950s bordello.”

The bay window has a nice view of the bustling street below. If I were a like that Belgian cat, I know that I’d curl up there with my stubby tail and just observe the humanity on the street. But since I’m more of a pastry than a pussy, I choose to loll about on the queen-sized shaped lounge and observe the humanity all around me. Close up and personal like. Even though I shared the lounge with David and Michael, there was plenty of room for other players in our conversational games. My props helped. (“Props” here isn’t slang for respect – I actually mean theatrical properties used for dramatic effect.)

No, I’m not above bringing props to a bar. In this case, I brought my cute little package. It’s fun to show off my package to the masses of handsome men. I got compliments aplenty on it. (Some of the daring even asked to see what was inside of it.)

Well, I was tightly packed that night – I had three books, an umbrella and my MD player in there. The package itself is an adorable little backpack with Curious George on it. Various scenes from his adventures cover the entire bag. Curious George always gets compliments. So the bag made a perfect laptop draw (read conversational trapping device) for innocent passers-by.

And draw them in it did. I must’ve met or at least talked with a dozen guys that night. Most were friendly, a few were neutral, a handful cold. But I interacted with them all. Michael actually praised me for it, after I commented, “The guys here are so friendly!”

“No, it’s not a friendly crowd,” he countered. “It’s just you!” he argued. “I come here all the time, but I don’t meet guys like you do!” This gave me pause to think. And smile. Mike smiled back with an ear-to-ear, thoroughly ingratiating, open-spirited smile.

What directed the spirit of the evening? Was it my indefatigable tartlettesse, or was it the Cosmic Harmony of the social-sofa space? Maybe it was a little bit of both.

What a great sofa! I love that little lounge area. So the prime social space is also a prime directive of sorts: go forth and multiply (your friends and acquaintances, that is….) I’ll have to admit, as I admitted to the grinning Mike, “I like being with David because I feel very much at ease with my surroundings. He’s like a security blanket with legs. He’s so easy to converse with that I’m just naturally at ease with everyone around me – that’s just the effect he has on me.” I’m like that with David and with the sweet-as-honey social busy bee that is T. Todd Elmer. (Todd is really the quintessential Washington power-player… I admire him for his striking social prowess and heavy, elemental charm. It draws people into orbit around him, inexorably, as if they’re drawn by the very physics of his system.)

I think knowing Todd has been very healthy for my sense of playfulness. He engages people conversationally using both his maturity and his childlike sense of fun. It’s a potent mixture. Just watching him is informative on how I can incorporate my natural curious nature, my informed news-junkie knowledge and my humor into my conversation.

It’s all a part of being a tart. So for me, gaufre will always mean “waffle” and Jeffrey will (at least for now) mean “tart.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

vol de nuit

“Flying blind!” I think out loud. My voice is tiny, barely audible, but I hear it. My voice is insignificant, a hair-like thread in the twisted knot of the chaos around me. Sandblasted by stinging silica winds, I guide the plane over an ocean of sand that stretches beneath me, invisible -- invisible but nonetheless threatening.

Strobes of lightening nearly blind me. But I don’t need my eyes to hear the left engine as it’s struck by lightening. After the blast of energy, which I feel shaking my rib cage and tickling my fingertips, the engine pops and sputters. Then, it’s mute, impotent. I wonder why it didn’t catch fire. The fuel line must’ve been severed before it had a chance to combust.

As I race through the equations of staying alive with a single engine, the lightening is flashing before me, behind me, underneath me. Boom-crash, boom-crash: Timpani and cymbal accompaniment. I blink away the sweat that drips down from my brow.

The altimeter spins wildly: a kind of Russian roulette, round and round.

Curiously, the acrid smell of the blackened engine reminds me of Thibold, my instructor. I recall a similar burnt dust-and-oil smell from his clothes. It would occasionally mix with the cheap scent of bad port on his breath, like it did once during my second lesson. I can remember the sound of his dirty fingernails scratching his ill-kempt beard and the chuckle in his voice as he reminded me to watch my pitch.

Flashing forward to this instant, this unreal and unwelcome present, I notice my pitch is off by fifteen degrees. I correct it jerkily. In the pitiless grasp of the wind, my biplane is tossed around like a dead leaf in a summer storm. But this is a summer sand storm.

Again, the dials spin mischievously like children’s tops. The gyroscopes fight to keep up with the plane’s relentless tossing.

I at the mercy of an invisible demon. His every breath sends my vessel arcing earthward. I try to pull up, cry aloud to pull up out of this spiral. But I careen helplessly into a descent.

Harnessed firmly to the pilot’s seat, I grip the controls harder and harder still. My knuckles are white marble wrapped coldly around the black controls. Altitude numbers sink down while my stomach hardens to a ball of ice. The lightening strobes around me once again. I don’t hear the thunder so much as feel it, the shuddering thud of it entering through my chest and into my heart and lungs, playing the small cavity of my body, my wholly insignificant body, like a drum.

The reverberation – the pitiful hum of the single engine changes pitch as I descend. My ears greet the sound like an old friend. There’s an eerie familiarity to it: My ears tease, “Yes, we know you. You’re the sound of careening earthward. Adam’s fall in the garden…. The sound of the fall of Icaris. The sound of the fall of mankind. The fall of a single man.” How personal it was! How intimate this sound. The first legato notes in the symphony of my demise.

I cannot make out where the sand meets the sky. But somewhere in the darkness below me, speeding in my direction, is the point where I will spend my last moment on earth. I consider the curious symmetry: I’m earth bound and heaven bound!

With that thought, the smallest hint of light appears at the forward. The horizon glints with a golden spark of sunlight amidst the gray gloaming of the storm. Am I near the edge of the storm? Can I escape the torrent of winds in time?

I’m not out of danger quite yet. The sound of the wind whistling through the wings shifts in key from a steady moan to a piercing scream.

The alternating lines and numbers of the altimeter bob downward, perfectly in synch with the faltering pitch of the remaining engine: 500, line, 400, line, 300, line, 200, line, 100….

The lightening begins again. It flashes then throbs. Ice-blue light seems to inhabit the cabin. I’m gripped with an odd peace. This feeling slips in like an unexpected guest – a presence in the cabin with me. The crystal-blue light turns into a milky white light: a personal Milky Way that I can feel more than see. But it is there with me.

Weightlessness. I cannot feel my hands on the controls. My feet are not curled nervously in my uncomfortable boots. My body is no more.

Then the aching begins. I feel the harness tight around my sore abdomen. Daylight – sunlight startles my eyes. I’m alive. The realization hits me with a shock.

I somehow crashed the plane into a dune. And more surprisingly, I survived! I had a sudden urge to look around me, to survey the 360 degrees of the living world that held me. I wanted to look around to prove to myself that I was still alive. The pain in my neck was a happy reminder that I existed – I didn’t mind it at all!

And I unfastened myself, looked through the wreckage of my craft, and wept, howled and laughed with the irrepressible joy of the living. My voice was tiny, insignificant in the sweeping expanse of the dunes that surrounded me. But I heard it!

I survived!

Sunday, October 13, 2002

songs of enchantment

We didn’t see the seven mountains ahead of us. We didn’t see how they are always ahead, always calling us, always reminding us that there are more things to be done, dreams to be realized, joys to be re-discovered, promises made before birth to be fulfilled, beauty to be incarnated, and love embodied.

We didn’t notice how they hinted that nothing is ever finished, that struggles are never truly concluded, that sometimes we have to re-dream our lives, and that life can always be used to create more light.

We didn’t see the mountains ahead and so we didn’t sense the upheavals to come, upheavals that were in fact already in our midst, waiting to burst into flames. We didn’t see the chaos growing; and when its advancing waves found us we were unprepared for its feverish narratives and wild manifestations. We were unprepared when our road began to speak in the bizarre languages of violence and transformations. The world broke up into unimaginable forms, and only the circling spirits of the age saw what was happening with any clarity.

- Azarro, spirit-child.

(As told by Ben Okri in Songs of Enchantment.)

I called Mom on a Friday at 2:30 to read her that passage. After I finished, there was a pause of about a minute, before she ventured, “That’s beautiful; is that about 9/11?”

“Not specifically, but yes, it is, in a larger sense,” I replied.

I think the “bizarre languages of violence and transformations” could easily be applied to recent events in our lives. But I think Okri was describing famine, pestilence and military coups. In a larger sense, he was describing society-wide catastrophes and violence and its effects on individual people.

He concludes the description, which is the introduction to the book, by saying, “This is the song of a circling spirit. This is a story for all of us who never see the seven mountains of our secret destiny, who never see the chaos that there can always be a new sunlight.

Gorgeousness is the word for Okri’s unique and seemingly effortless brand of magical realism.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

leaving the party

I left the party with Mark. He was debonair in his coat and tie and told me I “cleaned up nice” in mine. Those eyes – those sparkling hazel eyes charmed me to no end. We left the party together, walking down the spiral staircase. It was the same staircase that the junior Senator from New York had strolled down, just as I was arriving. I held his hand as we descended the staircase. It was awkward, I’ll admit: he’s just an inch too short for us to comfortably hold hands. But despite the physical awkwardness, the emotional part felt just right.

I can’t explain it. I can’t do the math. What equation is it whose sum is greater than all of the reservations of my heart? I don’t know. But he’s got the heights and the depths of me. I’m a hopeless puppy around him. And he’s noticed it – as if there were any way to hide it! “Stop it!” I admonished him, “Stop looking so adorable – it’s unbearable, you understand!” He responded with a dimpled smile and a sparkle in his eyes that showed he enjoyed the attention. “Flattery will get you everywhere,” he replied.

While I was at the bar, making small-talk with various handsome strangers and alluring lesbians, Mark was busy lobbying the purveyors of influence against the Bushie faith-based initiatives. I was happy that Emily had filled me in on the “Women of two spirits” mix-up… the administration was ignorantly ready to help out a lesbian Alaskan native tribal health program involving “women of two spirits” because it sounded vaguely religious. Mark seemed entertained by this.

I told him I was glad to hear that he was lobbying at the engagement. “…And all on my own time,“ he pointed out. “You get points for that,” I offered. “And how can I cash those in?” he asked. I countered that that information was on a “need-to-know basis” only. His response was a demurely dimpled grin.

Apparently, my three glasses of white wine were having an effect on me… he noted it and pointed out the economics of buying a glass of wine for $6.50. Buy two and you could’ve bought an entire bottle of wine! “So this is Jeffrey after he’s had a few!”

At the soiree, he introduced me to Chad Johnston, power player and head of the Stonewall Dems. I was so happy to meet Chad that I told him a little anecdote from my past: “You know, when I was in high school, I’d recite the pledge of allegiance. I would say the last bit, the ‘with liberty and justice for all’ part, with my hand over a heavy heart and I’d complete the thought by adding ‘except for me and my people.’” “And that’s why what you’re doing is so important. You’re giving us a voice we’ve never had before – so nobody has to amend the pledge of allegiance ever again.” He smiled and thanked me for telling him that.

I also got to meet Sen. Bill Bradley, out of Oregon. He was a hyperactive giant – easily 6’5”. I told him that I was amazed by the fact that he had time for a busy political career and still had time to pump out all of those wonderful sci-fi books. He just laughed and admitted that most people confuse him with the basketball player of the same name. Bradley sat down in a director’s chair with his name on it and gave his speech from that – I could picture his little interns carting that chair around from event to event and I had to chuckle. Those poor little slaves! At least they were supporting a guy with a bundle of energy, not an old sack of decrepit bones like some other senators.

The best part of the evening was actually just a gesture. But it was a significant one. Mark was talking about his school reunion in Connecticut this weekend. He was debating whether or not to go when I remarked that I had a friend (Eric) in Connecticut that I’ve been meaning to visit. To my astonished ears, he casually asked, “Well, wanna to go with me?” It was 8:35 PM eastern time, just an hour after the U.S. Space Station had passed in the northern part of the sky. The sky was clear and the temperature was a cool 74 degrees. Mark Levine had just asked me to spend the weekend with him on a trip to the country. At that point, my spirits were drifting just above the space station and the smile on my face must’ve reflected that. It was a moment sublime and genuinely sweet. I reveled in it. But I told him that I had a prior engagement, so I couldn’t join him. But I told him how much I appreciated the invitation. We kissed and I said goodnight. I was so touched that he’d consider spending the weekend with me that I nearly forgot my coat on his back seat.

Thursday, October 10, 2002


I supervise about 40 of them at work. Here are a few of their stories.

Shalah is the mature high-schooler with a ready, glowing smile and a calm demeanor. She’s dependable and great with the rowdy kids. Her eyes sparkle with glitter, usually in the pastel pink range. She carries with her a matching pink cellphone. Her parents are middle-eastern, so Shalah is as exotic as her name implies. With her expressive features and warm personality, she reminds me a little bit of Jasmine from the Disney movie.

Kyle signs his name with curly-cue letters. He’s a soft-spoken 13-year-old with deep-set brown eyes hidden between amber-tinted eyeglass frames. Short and diminutive, he looks as though he gets picked on a lot. He wears Hawaiian shirts that nearly outshine his subdued personality. The boy read the epic novel “Dune” in a week. Eagerly peppering me with questions about it afterwards, Kyle eagerly inquired about further reading. I get the odd feeling he looks up to me.

Jennifer is a mildly abrasive but moderately abusive, loud-mouthed 14-year-old with generous proportions. I vote her “most likely to play the title role” in her school production of “Taming of the Shrew.” Despite this, she somehow manages to be likeable. Maybe it’s because I can see some of the many disadvantages she’s had to overcome. Namely, her mother… Mom is a hardcore Yankees fanatic and Jenn follows ballgames, too. Jennifer’s headed to New York in two weeks to watch a game. She also likes to watch me tell tales during the Starlight Story Hour. She likes to pounce at her co-workers, kitten-style. (They don’t seem to mind her attention.)

Joshua is more sedate than a Demerol addict. I nicknamed him “loudmouth” because of his extreme economy of speech. That economy is like the GNP of Mozambique in the 80s. He’s got a stealthy manner of movement, sleek and cat-like. I guess it’s silly of me, but I worry for him. He’s African American and I’d place him in the “slightly at-risk” category. Despite his obvious academic bent (he’s in a program for advanced students and he clearly likes to read) he seems fiercely independent and a little detached. I hope he’s going to be all right. (They post crime stats for a reason.)

Elia and John are sister and brother. Elia’s about 15 and her brother’s 13ish. They’ve got mixed heritage, so they have café au lait skin and dark features. Elia prefers old-lady style robin’s egg-blue eye shadow. She daubs it on so thick it’s a wonder how she can open her eyes at all. John is the epitome of cool. He’s oddly deferential of his sister for a 13-year-old. In his spare time, he likes to make ten-foot long chains of rubber bands and wrapping them around his neck, feather boa-style. I vote this kid “most likely to become a drag queen” because of his feather boa penchant.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Saturday in Del Ray

It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning in Del Ray. I just stopped by the open-air market to buy some ornamental pumpkins (5 for $2!) and two aromatic rosemary plants. I want the rosemary to wrap my room in a fragrant embrace. The pumpkins I’ll probably just paint little faces on and spruce up the place.

The reason why I felt joy in my heart and sang out loud to Erasure in the car this morning wasn’t because of the sunlight. It was because of my sparkle-fresh existence.

I’m still in a giggly, cheerful mood after visiting Ale and Dave last night for a delicious pasta and salad meal. Ale made the most flavorful salad out of the simplest ingredients. I was impressed by his expertise. I would’ve made a terribly boring salad if I’d had a hand in it. But he saved the day and made it tasty.

The evening offered a simple but thought-provoking epiphany for me. I realized that nearly every time he and I run together, which is about once or twice every two weeks these days, I seem to have a new object of lust and affection. I’m in a constant state of enthusiasm, optimism and heady joie de vivre about my so-called love life and he generally has to bare the brunt of my ravings. “Oh, Mr. XYZ is the best – he’s funny and sweet, very intelligent and has great eyes,” I’ll say. He, the supportive friend smiles and asks polite questions. All the time, though, I’m sure he’s asking himself, “How long will this one last?” And he’s right to wonder. Why don’t I wonder about that? Why don’t I ask myself that question?

I’m probably just too wrapped up in the thrill of the chase, drunk with the possibility strings that envelope my optimistic spirit. Is it happening again? Am I following that same threadbare path into Mark? Who knows… least of all me!

Emily and Sarah are coming by this weekend for a conference. We’re going to have a little fun in the city. We’re also going to go to a fancy restaurant. (I’m not sure which one yet, but we’ve got a nice selection to choose from in a fabu Post Food section article that I sent them last week.)

I also had a kayaking session planned with Mark Levine. We had thought we’d go to down below the Key Bridge and visit Jack’s Boathouse. But Mark’s got a pulled arm muscle and I’ve got a marathon to run tomorrow. So, we settled for something (as yet unimagined) to occupy our time during this, our third time together. [Heart-chilling realization: Dare I even call it a date? Does he think in that terminology? Would he laugh to himself, look me earnestly in the eye, hold my hand and tell me he doesn’t think of me that way? I don’t know.]

I do know a few things.

I know he picked me up on a night when the moon was full, Saturday September 21st. I know I stared into his eyes for the first time and I felt a rush of warmth all over my body – not just my crotch. I know he flirted with me as he passed the Braddock Road Metro Station. I know it was just after dusk and the bright green signal light put an odd sparkle in his green and hazel eyes. I know he leaned over towards me in the comedy club and lovingly massaged the back of my neck. And I know that at that moment, I was laughing outside while my heart was laughing inside.

I know he smiled at me in the full moonlight. I know that we played on the swings together and then stopped to stare at each other, quietly fascinated by the company of the other. I know that he wanted to come up after we shared our first tentative kiss as we sat precariously in those ratty playground swings.

I further know that we held hands Wednesday evening. We sat in his basement, on the comfy couch, hand in hand. I rested my head on his snuggle spot (you know, the perfect headrest formed by the pectoral and the shoulder?). We watched Ken Burns’ re-mastered Civil War documentary. It was obvious right from the start that Mark knew far more about the Civil War than I ever thought him capable of. Just a pretty face he is not. He is much more than that. How much more I don’t know, but I’m enjoying finding it out.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

the letter

It’s a simple letter, with black, hand-scrawled letters in an easy hand.

It’s on bright yellow paper that lounged atop a box of my things from Japan. It languished there for seven years.

The box was carefully labeled and inventoried, like archeological artifacts in a museum. But the semi-official sounding title was clearly a joke. “Items from the pre-Japonic period.” (You know, one of the million little personal jokes that nobody else would get but me… “Japonic” was a stab at a Latin-sounding name, pseudo-official sounding to my silly ear.)

I packed the box a long time ago, before my adventure.

The note reads:


Jeffrey –

Welcome back. I assume you enjoyed your days, months and years in the East. You have so much to talk about and listen to. Where to begin?!?

Today I am packing up and putting away all my precious things for safekeeping ‘til I return. What are you putting away today? What are you keeping safe for tomorrow?

There’s one thing you must remember as you settle back into your life at home: You’re home again. Think about what that means. Don’t forget where your home is. It should be your base of support and your emotional foundation.

What have you learned from your journey? What have you left behind, never to regain? And what precious things have you gained in your travels that you could never do without?

I wish you joy. I hope you return a happier person, richer in mind and spirit. I hope your expectations were met generously and your worries were scarce.

What’s next? What now? I wonder as I wander. All my love – you were always on my mind.

– jb

The letter brings up some good points to ponder.

What am I putting away today?

These days, I’m putting away money so that I can travel again, just like I did in Japan. But it’s more than that. Today I’m putting away the doubts I used to harbor. (This is pretty easy. I surround myself with people who generate megawatts of positivity.) I’m putting away my former habit of being silent about my political beliefs. (I volunteer for political causes regularly.) I’ve also said “sayonara” to all the toxic people in my life.

What am I keeping safe for tomorrow?

I am keeping my body in shape, with my marathon training. I’m keeping my mind healthy and alert, by reading and writing regularly. (I challenge myself ideologically more these days, reading books that run counter to presuppositions.) I keep my hopes lively and bright, aspiring to a relationship that inspires me. I keep an eye out for opportunity and beauty, for friendly smiles and for those elusive moments of clarity and serendipity.

What have I learned from my journey?

- Jedi mind tricks were first pioneered during the Meiji era of Japan and are still used to this day.

- The spiraling, indirect method of communication is as effective as it is enigmatic.

- Culture can be as powerful as a stormy sea or as imperceptible as a ripple in the moonlight; context is the only inter-cultural Rosetta Stone.

- Only once you’ve forgotten everything about a subject can you study it without bias or sociological academic baggage. (…Or at least with less of these encumbrances…)

What have I left behind, never to regain?

I think the dominant attitude of total cultural imperialism that most Americans unknowingly hold is something that I’ve successfully shed. (Yes, of course I still make fun of Canada, despite my Wonder Twin’s choice to live there.)

And what rewards have I reaped in your travels that you could never do without?

Fantastic memories, Wisdom about the incredible variety of the world, Profound respect for the mysteries of culture and foreign belief systems, The ability to cook with ginger, A love of wasabi and fresh (raw) seafood.

What’s next? What now?

I can only cite Bjork: “In wonder, I wonder, ‘What happens next?’”

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

baptist mem'ries

Did you ever come across a tiny clue to a whole handful of memories that you haven’t visited in many years? It’s like a fragment of a hologram: even with the tiniest sliver, a larger image will reveal itself upon careful inspection.

So thanks for the brainstorm of memories that you unlocked for me this afternoon, Mr. Random personals ad creator. I thought I’d share them with you…

Jefferson Baptist Church: I can remember driving to it in Mrs. French's shiny new Lincoln.

It was my very first trip to church -- my parents were agnostics. I was so excited, all polyester-proper in my clip-on tie. Mrs. French was our neighbor, an elderly lady whose strongest exclamation was "Lordy Be!"

I guess that is appropriate, since her son was the pastor at that church. It was an impressive red brick church on a small hill. We drove up the hill and parked in her special spot. Before me, the seemingly mile-high steeple pierced an azure sky.

I have vivid memories of walnut collection plates lined with feathery forest green velvet. Change jingled in it, wrapped neatly in tiny envelopes. A booming sound came from the air conditioner, which recycled the smell of new carpet.

The choir rejoiced, in a slightly repressed Caucasian manner, of Jesus’ power. They were profoundly devout – I couldn’t imagine going up on stage and singing in front of everybody about somebody I didn’t even know. About something I couldn’t even feel. About a God who I never felt a connection to. But I smiled at the spectacle of it all… the spectacle of ladies in their Sunday best, smelling strongly of magnolias and delicately of righteousness. The spectacle of the handsome choir director dressed in all white: purity and godliness on conspicuous display for all to aspire to! And he had strong, expressive hands that swayed from side to side, moving the choir in joyful ululation.

I soaked in the music, experiencing the rumbling vibrations of a church organ for the first time. I could feel it in my stomach. I could feel vibrations from another organ, too – a funny feeling for that flashy choir director.

But that’s a story for another time.