daily preciousness

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.”


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