Monday, December 20, 2010

Rockstar Moment

I stood outside my apartment building in the Februaried air.  It was a Sunday night, and my sight was a bit blurry from reading 200 pages of How To Win in Washington. I fidgeted with my pashmina, a gift from my Kasmiri ex-roomate, that I was never seen without during these wintry days.  There was fresh mulch at the base of the large oak trees that stood guard in front of my apartment complex.  It looked strange there, superimposed on the tundra that wouldn’t become grass again until April.
I pulled out a blue, cardboard box of Nat Sherman’s, and removed the one remaining cigarette.  I could feel a subdued adrenaline rush in anticipation of a hit of nicotine.  I lit up and took a long drag as the wind threatened to put out the just-lit smoke.  I thought about how I could market myself differently to the countless think tanks in Washington, of which, owing to the financial crisis, none were hiring.
A well-dressed girl turned the corner from N St. onto New Hampshire.  As she neared, I saw that she was both tall and beautiful.  Being weary of staring, I turned so that my back was toward her.  Her heels made a clip-clop noise that steadily grew louder.  Then the noise suddenly stopped and I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I spun around with a surprised smile. 
“Hey, sorry to bug you, but do you have another one of those?”
“Oh, um, I’m really sorry, this is my last one.”
“Oh, that’s ok.  I was just out with some friends for drinks and I’m totally craving a smoke.”
While maintaining my smile, I said apologetically, “Yeah, I know how that can be.”
She started to continue on her way when my partially paralyzed mind instructed my mouth to say, “Hey, do you wanna share this one with me?” 
She turned around with remarkable grace, given that she was in heels.  She said with alacrity, “Sure! Why not?”
I walked toward her and handed her the cigarette.  She removed her trendy blue leather gloves and took a few puffs. 
“Oh wow, what are these?
“They’re Nat Shermans.”
“Oh, so you’re too good for Camel lights?”
“Exactly,” I replied cheekily.
“These are so much better than the shit everyone else smokes.”
“Hearing you say that is actually the main reason that I smoke them.”
“Ha! You’ve got quite a sense of humor.   There’s a lot left.  Wanna walk me home while we finish this off?”
“Sure.  Where do you live?”
“I’m like two blocks from here on 22nd.”

As we walked we exchanged names and, of course, work information and where we had received our graduate degrees.  She was impressed that I studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, though she had received a law degree from Duke and a master’s in international relations from Hopkins. Her name was Sonia and her parents had immigrated to the US from India when she was very young.   As we rounded the corner onto 22nd St., I noticed that she was wearing a white colored cashmere coat with a faux fur collar.  It wasn’t the type of coat one could wear every day and I knew she’d never wear it to work at the firm she practiced at.  I started to understand that this was a girl was part of DC’s “upper crust.” As the lights shined upon us from the Wyndham hotel, I caught a glimpse of her enormous pink diamond earrings. I was a bit disappointed because pink diamonds were almost always conflict diamonds.  I realized this was the type of girl my friends and I regularly chided when out at a bar or lounge.  It wasn’t that any of us couldn’t afford nice things; we just had our fair share of disasters with “princesses.”  Princesses cared more about money than substance, more about where you worked than what you did, more about which senators you knew rather than which ones you voted for.
To hell with it.  She’s super cute and seems like she’s into you.
Upon reaching her town house I was glad that DC was being hit hard by the financial crisis as it made me one of thousands of highly qualified people not presently working.  Sonia didn’t seem fazed by my circumstances despite being a lawyer at a high-powered law firm.  We stopped at her doorstep and she said, “Well, thanks for walking me home – oh, and for the cigarette,” as she smiled, showing her brilliant white teeth for the first time.
“No worries.  Next time you’re fiending for a smoke, just stop by,” I said.
“Ok. Cool.  See you around.” 
She stepped up to her door, and as she turned the key, I asked, “So, would you be up for dinner sometime?”
“Umm, sure,” she said pretending to not have expected my inevitable query.  “Here’s my card.  Just shoot me an email, O.K.?”
“I’ll do that.  Have a good night,” I said playfully.
I turned and walked back toward my apartment, feeling both excited and surprised.  I immediately called my friend Zaytun.
“Ettie,” he said, as he always did whenever I called.  That’s the thing I loved about Z.  He never answered with a “Hello?” Instead he always said your name, as if he had been looking forward to hearing from you.
“Z! Dude, you’re never going to believe what just happened.”
“What’s that?  Wait, hang on, let me turn this down.  He turned down the Portuguese ambient electronica he was presently obsessed with.  Ok.  What up?”
“Dude.  Check it.  I’m standing outside my building having a smoke.  This super cute chick rolls up, and asks for a smoke.  But I was on my last one.  So I ask her if she wants to share, and she’s like cool.  So we end up sharing the cigarette while I walk her home.”
“Nice, dude.  So did you get her number?”
“Well, when we got to her pad, I asked for it and she gave me her card.”
“That’s pretty money considering you knew her all of, what, ten minutes?”
“Yeah, something like that.  Only thing is that I think she might be a princess.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Dressed all in couture.  Pink diamond earrings bigger than T.O.’s”
“Hmm….Well at least go out with her and decide.  You got nothing to lose, right?”
“Yeah, definitely.  What do you think, the Peruvian joint in Adams Morgan?”
“It’s been nothing but good to you in the past, right?”
“Yeah, I’d say that’s about right. Just don’t want it to seem like I’m trying too hard to impress. Cool.  So, yeah, just called to tell you about this.  Nothing else has happened since I talked to you, like, 3 hours ago.”
“Alright, man.  Let’s talk about this more tomorrow and we can strategize on the email.  I’ve got a big donor meeting tomorrow so I gotta crash pretty soon.” 
“Ok, man.  Talk to you tomorrow.  Can I come to the donor meeting?”
“Uhh, no.”
“Come on, dude.  I’ll tell them how well you can withstand multiple alcoholic drinks.  And how you used to handle way more E than any other human weighing 130lbs.  I want to reassure them that you’ll be doing good things with their money.”
“Somehow I don’t think any of that would go over too well, Etienne.”
“OK, dude.  Let me know if you’re starting to get cold feet and you change your mind.”

I made plans with Sonia for later that same week.  Zaytun’s email edits were invaluable and helped me strike just the right balance between playful and confident.  We met at the Peruvian restaurant, which was known for excellent food in an intimate, though unpretentious setting.  It was a fairly small space, only about ten tables.  The walls were painted a pinkish-red and each table had a small, unassuming candle placed upon a bluish-grey tablecloth. 
We started with the ceviche, which was fantastic.  As the conversation began to move fluidly, I became less nervous.  A bottle of Chilean petit syrah arrived, and was poured into trendy, stemless wine glasses.  We sipped the wine, and Sonia complemented me on the selection.  As she was a progressive, we shared much in common.  We discussed our love for Amartya Sen, Raphael Nadal, and Bollywood films. 
“Actually, you’re never gonna believe this, but I started watching Indian movies because I was trying to improve my Hindi language skills when I was studying for the foreign service exam,” I confessed. 
“That is so funny!  Did it work?”  she asked playfully. 
“Yeah, I think after about three weeks I could understand when they read the title of the movie.”
Sonia was definitely digging my sense of humor and I started to feel at ease.   Our food arrived just as we began to share our favorite travel destinations.  
“So, where are some of your favorite places in Europe?” she inquired.
I sensed that she was after a little dirt, and I had no shortage of stories to satisfy.  “Actually, I went backpacking in Europe with six brown guys.”
“Oh my God! Are you serious? That’s so crazy”
“It was hilarious.  I mean, it just happened that way.  Most of my housemates senior year were Indian, so we all went together.  The token Whitie, Brad, wasn’t able to make it. Anyway, we’d walk through any city, and people would be like, ‘India! India!’  We didn’t mind, ‘cuz they treated us a lot better than they would have if they thought we were American.”
“So what’s your favorite memory?”
“Oh, that’s so tough.  Man, I guess I’d have to go with Marbella, you know, Spanish Riviera.  We had partied all night, and at like 2am, they started blinking the lights.  Of course, we thought it was last call and started pounding the rest of our drinks.  But it wasn’t.  Get this: it was a Michael Jackson contest.”
“Wait, what do you mean, Michael Jackson contest?  Like karyoke?”
“No, no.  This was the real deal.  They would play a Michael Jackson song, and you have to dance to it.”
“Oh my God!”
“So, all of us are trying to get my friend Rahil to do it ‘cuz he’s a kick-ass bhangra dancer.  But Niraj was like, ‘No way, no how, never.’” 
“So what happened?”
“O.K., so no one knew, but I was quasi-obsessed with Michael, and I used to practice his moves in my bedroom every morning while I got dressed.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Sonia said as she nearly snarfed her wine. “That is so fucking funny.”
“Yeah.  I was drunk, and I was like, ‘Yo, I’m never going to see any of these people again.’  So I told the bartender I was in.”
Sonia was enjoying all this immensely.  She punched me in the arm playfully and insisted, “What happened then?”
“So then, like three guys and one girl were ahead of me.  The girl was money.  One of the dudes was a shit-faced Greek dude who almost did a face-plant.  So I roll up and, of course, they played Billie Jean.  Man, I knew the song and the moves so well that it just no contest.  The only thing I was worried about was the Moonwalk because the stage was kind of sticky.  So while I was dancing I kicked off my shoes and then I poured a drink all over my socks so they wouldn’t stick to the floor.”
“Oh my fucking God. So then what?” Sonia asked with wide eyes and an open mouth.
“I totally nailed the Moonwalk.  And everyone in the bar just went insane.  At the end of the song, this insanely hot Scandinavian DJ came over and kissed me on the lips.” 
“That is the fucking funniest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Yeah, it’s like…we get one of these moments in our entire lives.  You have no idea when it’s going to happen, but we all get this singular chance to be a total rock star.”
“So, wait.  What did all your friends say?”
“Ha! They were like where the fuck did that come from?  Who are you?”
“I was like, yo, I got skills.  I got skills that you don’t even know about.  Then all these people started crowding around me.  And they were like ‘how did you learn the Moonwalk?’  And I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders.  Like ten different people bought me a drink.  Then people started chanting ‘Encore!  Encore!’ but I knew I had to quit while I was ahead, you know?
That is a great story.”
“So what’s your rock star moment?”
“Definitely when I was in college.  I was a theatre major.  So, there’s this big Shakespeare festival every year.  And it’s just kind of understood that no freshman, no matter how captivating they are, can take on anything except for bit parts.  So…I was like, ‘fuck that,’ I’m so much better than these upperclassmen chicks.  About two months before the festival, the drama faculty comes around and hands out the parts.  I had like two lines in The Tempest, which was totally beneath me because I was a total drama nerd in high school.  I actually went to Shakespeare camp every summer.”
“Wow, I bet you got yourself into loads of trouble there, huh?  What did you do, interrupt people studying with a soliloquy?”
“Shut up!  O.K., where was I?  Oh, yeah, so there’s this bitch who was a sophomore and they gave her Cleopatra because her Dad was like Ambassador to Brazil.  So, this chick was notorious for sucking dick right and left.  So guess what happens?  She ends up getting fucking mono and loses her voice two days before the production.”
“No, way!”
“Way.  Very way.  So, there’s this urgent email from the head of the drama department in search of anyone, female or male, who could do a cram session and perform as Cleopatra in front of the whole campus.” 
“So, I replied, and said I could do it.  Actually, the summer before I started at Yale, I had played Cleopatra - ”
“- At Shakespeare camp!”
“Yes!  So I emailed back and said I could do it and that two days was enough time for me to prepare.”
“So then what?”
“So then I crammed like crazy, ‘cuz you have to remember all the gestures and everything too.  Performance day came around and people were like, ‘Oh, Antony and Cleopatra is going to blow because Veronica’s not doing it.’  I was just like, whatever.  I went out there and I was just like in a zone the whole two hours.”
“Then what?”
“They did the curtain call and I got mad ovations.  I was like, ‘yeah, you know it!’”
“Nice, very nice.”
“But that’s not even the best part.  After the head of the drama department totally kissed my ass, I went back to the dressing area.  Everyone was giving me high fives and shit.  But then came the total rock star moment.  All of a sudden everyone started cheering.  None other than William Jefferson Clinton walks in.  He came right up to me and said, ‘That is the best performance of Antony and Cleopatra I’ve seen in my entire life.  And that includes the time when I saw it as president.’”
“Holy shit!  I get kissed by a hot DJ and you get props from Bill Clinton.  Un-be-liveable.” 
We had eaten our entrees without noticing.  And it had been at least ten minutes since the waiter placed the desert menus on the table. 
Sonia’s story was so amazing that all I could do was smile and shake my head.  She seemed like she’d need a moment to return from her surreal memory.  She was looking at the candle and smiling to herself.  I consumed the image of her full lips just barley parted.  She had a large dimple on her left cheek.  Her eyes were so large and dark that they made me want to beg them to take me wherever they were.
“Ready for dessert?” I asked. 
“Sure. Hmmm.  Everything looks good.  Oh, do you wanna share the leche asada?”
“Yeah, that’s cool.  I always end up getting flan.  I think it’s time to move on.”
“Excelente.  Hey, do you watch soccer?”
“Yeah.  I mean, I don’t have the soccer channel, but I def watch the good club games whenever I can.”
“What’s your team?”
“I dig Man U.”
“Oh, really?”
“Yeah, why?”
“Oh, my girlfriend is from the U.K. and she’s like an insane Arsenal fan.”
“Yeah, you match the passion of the Brits for football.  It’s part of their DNA.”
“Totally.  Did you used to play?”
“Yeah, man.  I played all through high school and then intramural in college.”
“Cool.  Were you good?”
“Ummm.  I was pretty average until senior year.  Then I put on a bit of weight on my super-skinny frame and that helped a lot.  You know, you can move a lot better when the wind isn’t knocking you over,” I shared with a smile.
Sonia laughed, showing her dimple again.  “You know your sense of humor is quite charming, don’t you?”
“I’ve been told this.”
“Yeah, by who?”
“The little butterfly that lives in my sock drawer.”
“Were you born this cute?”
“Yes,” I replied with a playful smile.
“Oh!” Sonia jumped in her seat.  “That’s my phone.  Hang on a sec,” she said as she pulled her phone from her Fendi handbag.  “Hi babe, what’s up?  No, no we’re just finishing.  Yeah, for sure.  O.K., sweets.”  She hung up her phone and placed it back in her handbag.
“Meeting up with some friends after this?”  I inquired as carefully as possible.
“Oh, no.  That’s just my boyfriend.”
“Cool,” I said, but I meant, “What the fuck was that all about?  You’re playing me?”  I could feel the leche asada climbing back up into my throat.  I was shocked, but I still maintained sufficient wits to be able to ask the painfully obvious, “Soooo…this is not a date.” It was a statement more than it was a question.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry, sweetie.  I thought I made it obvious.  Yeah, I mean, this is just hanging out.  Two friends enjoying good food and great conversation.  I mean, your Billie Jean story is fucking awesome.  Sheel is going to die when he hears it.”
“I hope he gets a kick out of it,” I said with my teeth clenched and my fingernails tearing into my palms. 
The check came back and I signed it furiously.  To make matters worse, in my disorientation, I gave the waiter a 40 percent tip. 
We stood up, and Sonia reached out her arms to hug me.  I wanted to drop-kick her in the face so hard that that damn dimple would fall right off.  Instead, I played it cool and attempted to save face.  This ended up being the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done. 
“Oh, thank you, sweetie!  We have to do this again sometime.  You have to tell me more of your crazy stories!”
“Definitely.  I’ll give you a ring next week.”
We walked out of the restaurant and Sonia reached out her arms for another hug goodbye.  I half-heartedly wrapped one arm around her.  She planted a warm kiss on each cheek, in the European fashion.
“Bye, sweetie!”
“O.K., you heartless bitch,” I said under my breath.  She started walking south toward Dupont Circle.  My apartment was in the same direction, but the last thing I wanted to do was be anywhere near that evil chick.  I walked uphill toward Kindred Spirits.  The irony was not lost upon me.  I slid my Blackberry out of my pocket.  I held down the side button, and said “Z” into the receiver. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010


On the first weekend of spring break, Brad and I decided to diss the bars for a club.  We got out of the cab at the top of a steep hill where the enormous discotec, The Palladium, was located.   As we walked toward the entrance, we could see all of Acapulco’s lights glimmering below us in through the darkness.  Beyond the side of the driveway was a cliff that descended the entire height of the hill - at least 200 feet.  Brad and I casually made our entrance and headed straight for the bar. We started off with margaritas - rocks and salt.  We both took in the scene as we quickly downed our drinks.  The space of the discotec was massive, much larger than any club I’d ever been to.  Multi-colored lights were rigged upon the ceiling; they made bright circles of red, pink, blue and white on the floor.   Brad and I watched the girls walk toward the dance floor in tight groups.  We joked that the girls were so fine that they could only be described as ugly.  As we finished our first margarita, a guy who looked like he stuffed himself into his pants walked by. 
“I knew you were laughing at that dude with the fat ass in those tight jeans!”  I said.
“I know, man, he needed a shoehorn to get into those!” 
Yo, check out the JLo-wannabe over there in the purple.”
“Not Cute!” we said in unison while mimicking the act of vomiting.
Brad knew that he had to keep a close eye on me, as there was always a danger that after a few drinks I would not only comment on the overly-made up divas, the chumps and the over-dancers, I would likely make them aware of their defect.  As one drink somehow became six or seven, Brad and I wandered about the club, checking things out and debating on whether to hit the dance floor.  It was now well after mid-night, and there were loads of gorgeous girls dancing together in groups, surrounded by lame guys paying them homage.  On the other side of the ridiculously huge club there were tables headed by rich Mexican guys who were buying wine and champagne for their friends. 

Back at the bar, Brad and I found a group of other college students on spring break and hung out with them for a while.  Their group had a decent ratio of girls to guys, so we kicked it with them until it became clear that the meat head factor of this group was a bit too high for our liking.  “Dude, if you don’t do this shot, I’m gonna kick your ass right here!” one of the guys said to the other.  Brad and I gave each other the widened-eye-with-raised-eyebrow-look and rolled out.  Just as I was about to do an impression of the chumps we just met, when I thought I spotted a classmate from Michigan.  I needed to walk right by her to get a good look.  This wasn’t just any classmate.  It was Devi Desai.  I grabbed Brad by the shoulder and said, “Dude, that’s Devi Desai.”
“Go talk to her,” Brad encouraged.
“What’s my opening?”
“Dude, she’s by herself.  Just ask her what’s up.”
“What if she ignores me? She hasn’t said a word to me since Enigmatic Wednesday.”
“Come on, Sash.  You never even called her after that.  And I’m pretty sure you haven’t run into her, right?  Dude, we’re like 5,000 miles from campus.  She’s not gonna pull that shit.”
“O.K., man.  If she shuts me down, you’ll have to wear a speedo tomorrow.”
“Fine, I’ll wear a damn speedo.  I’ll even wear a pink one.  I don’t give a fuck.  You know I’m fine.  Now get your ass over there.”
I had trouble holding back my laughter because I knew he’d actually do it.  I walked back toward Devi, but the angle was challenging since she was on the move.  I decided to cross her path diagonally, and much to my surprise, she tugged at my shirt. 
“Hey, what’s up?  I know you,” Devi said flirtatiously.
“Hey, what’s goin’ on?  I didn’t know you were going to be in Acapulco”
We exchanged the usual niceties and after a few minutes Devi just asked, “So you wanna hang out?”  This was beginning to be a bit surreal.  Every guy I knew had a crush on Devi Desai.   And every guy I knew, knew that I had a huge crush on Devi Desai.   She was coy, elusive, ever-so-subtly flirtatious, but emasculatingly sexy.  Earlier that year, on an ass-cold November day, I was lucky enough to catch Devi on her way out of a class.  
Somehow I was able to convince her to hang out.  Maybe she was just cold.  Devi came over on a cold, lazy Wednesday night.  We sat on the sofa munching on Tostitos chips and salsa, washed down with vodka and tonic.  We watched The Doors.  I made sure not to mouth all the good lines before Val Kilmer said them, as I had a terrible habit of doing. I thought I had everything in line for a legendary hook up, but this was, after all, Devi Desai.  It was actually the most stressful “date” ever, if you could even call it that.  She never broke her poker face, so I had to figure out what she wanted without her really telling me anything meaningful about herself.  It was like being on a date with the Sphinx.  Needless to say, it didn’t go well.  My friends who heard of the Wednesday date bust sympathized with me, both in person and via email.  That evening became forever etched in our shared history as Enigmatic Wednesday.  Devi Desai had now surpassed Simone Rao as the most mysterious-and-yet-insanely-hot-girl on campus.  

It’s a good thing I was drunk, because I was able to answer Devi casually.  
“Hang out? Are sure that's all you wanna do?  No, I'm playing.  Of course I would."
Devi led me by the hand to the dance floor, where we talked a bit over the blaring music.  I held her close.  Her shimmery silver dress was an alluring mixture of materials that felt cool despite the heat of the club.  We danced for a few songs, but Devi appeared to be getting bored.  I knew I wasn’t a great dancer, but I also knew I wasn’t that bad. 
“Do you want some wine?” Devi asked.
“Am I feeling fine?” I asked, unable to hear her over the relentless techno music.
“No! I said do you want some wine!”
“Oh, O.K., sure.  I mean, I’ve had a lot to drink already, but I’m down with some vino.”  I was off-balance already; I didn’t want to get so drunk that I totally fucked myself over. 
One to two glasses, O.K.?  No more.  DO NOT ruin this!
“O.K., rockin,’” she said.
Surprisingly, Devi went up to a table crowded with a group that seemed like regulars at this club.  She talked to one of the guys for a couple minutes, while I chilled in the background.  In a way I was simply resting on my laurels as it was clear Devi and I were together – at least for the next hour.  Devi was chatting it up with such familiarity that it was as if she hung out with this crew at a bar the previous night. But, as I would learn, this wasn’t the case.  Devi was simply accessing her full seductive capability, smiling intriguingly, holding a guy’s hand in hers, pretending to be unaware of how much cleavage she was showing as she leaned over. 
Isn’t that dude with his girlfriend?
The real skill, I concluded was in winning over all the girls at the table.  Oddly, they didn’t see Devi as a threat, nor did they seem offended by Devi flirting with their boyfriends.  This was manipulation that would surely make Kissinger proud.  Regardless, before I knew it, Devi was pouring champagne into a glass for me.  We sat at a small table that had its back to the table of Devi’s patrons.  We finished the champagne, oddly, without sharing any with the partiers that bought it for us.  Then again, they already had a few bottles of wine on their table. At the end of the day, I had absolutely no problem with Devi playing a game with all these other guys as long as she was procuring the wine from them, but drinking it alone with me.  When we’d finished the champagne, Devi took my hand and led me to the next table.
“Wanna see me do it again?”
“O.K. Let’s see what you got.”
Shit! She’s going to get another bottle and I’m going to seem like a total lightweight if I say “No!”
Again, Devi had another bottle of wine in her hand in a matter of minutes.  I was beyond amazed at her talent.  We began drinking this bottle, too, when I became acutely aware that I was suffering from alcohol poisoning.  The enormous space started spinning.  The lights on the ceiling began to alternate from incredibly bright to dim.  The sound of the pulsating techno began to pump my stomach so as to push its contents upward. I cursed myself for being such an idiot. I gave Devi a peck on the cheek and told her I’d be right back. I walked off briskly and as soon as I was out of sight I ran, in crooked lines, to the bathroom.  I puked.  I puked like I’ve never puked before.  I tried to calculate the number of drinks I’d consumed so that I’d know how much water to drink.  But I had completely lost track.  I needed to find Brad to figure out a plan of action. 
Oh, shit! Brad!  Where the hell is he?
I leaned against the sink, as dozens of guys passed in and out.  The air was saturated with conflicting colognes and it did anything but help my churning stomach.  After about ten minutes I started feeling better.  I remained a bit queasy, but rejuvenated.  I had a strong feeling that I just didn’t live up to Devi’s expectations and that she had taken off. To my surprise, she was still at the table.  Now that I had gotten rid of about a liter of alcohol, I could afford to drink some more, I reasoned.  Devi and I drank the next bottle of wine, which was a red.  She, for the first time, seemed to be showing genuine interest, but I still felt like her real goal was to see how many guys she could get to buy her a bottle of wine while their girlfriends sat watching. 
Who cares! I thought. She’s the hottest girl that you’ve ever talked to.
And so I found myself accompanying Devi to two or three more tables and finishing just as many more bottles of wine.  By 3:30
AM Devi had, I’m sure, damaged some relationships, but no less than she damaged my liver.  Anyway, we agreed it was time to go.  I felt myself leaning on Devi so I could walk straight.  I put my arm around her shoulder and she held my hand as it hung at the base of her neck. As it was so late the crowd had thinned considerably.  It only took me a few minutes to see that Brad was no longer there.  Having nothing to lose, I asked Devi to come back with me.   She agreed.
Really?  But I’m totally shit-faced.  I can barely find the exit. Is this going to be another Enigmatic Wednesday? Oh well, I’m not about to argue with her.
By the time we arrived at the hotel, it was so late, and both of us were so tired that we dropped all pretense.  I didn’t even offer her a chair or water, nor did she make any such requests.  We both just slid comfortably into my bed, completely shit-faced.
“Wait.  What happened to your friend? ” Devi asked, slurring slightly.
I looked over and saw that there was a trail of dusty mud on the tile floor that grew heavier as it approached the base of Brad’s bed.  I looked over to the corner of the room and saw Brad’s cream-colored polo shirt in the corner with streaks of blood on it.  Then I saw his forearm, which had a 5in. gash in it, though it looked like the bleeding had been contained.  Nevertheless, the sheet below Brad’s arm was covered in fresh blood.  I jumped out of the bed to examine the wound.  The bleeding had stopped, but the multiple scrapes and cuts on his arm were still disconcerting. 
“Brad!  Dude!”
Brad did not respond.
“Yo, Monkey Style!” I attempted to wake him, but he was totally passed out.
I tried again, shaking him vigorously. “Briz!  Homey!  Dude, you’re bleeding!”
“Well, it’s not actively bleeding.  I don’t know if he got into a fight or what” I said to Devi.
“Does he usually get into fights when he’s really drunk?” 
“No, we get hammered together every single weekend, but he’s never been in a fight as long as I’ve known him.” 
Devi concluded, “I guess we’ll just have to wait for the morning.”
“Yeah…I guess so,” I said, with concern.
I pulled Devi toward me and the moment I felt her chest against mine, I forgot all about Brad.  She was warm and her hair smelled like jasmine flowers.  I kissed her neck gently, and she pulled the back of my hair with a tight fist.  I slid the spaghetti straps of her dress from her shoulders to her upper arm.  I slid my hand between her loosened dress and her perfect breasts.  At that very moment, I passed out.

Around 11
AM, Devi woke me up, asking if I wanted to go running on the beach.
“Are you high?” I joked.
Then seeing the dusty mud on the floor again, I remembered I had to hear Brad’s story.  I threw a pillow at him and asked, “Dude, what the fuck happened to you?” 
“Oh, uhhh, well, I think I left around 3
AM.  I started to walk down the driveway, but then I was like, ‘Man forget this.’  So I decided to climb down.” 
“You what? You scaled the 200ft cliff?”
“Wait. Why?” Devi asked with genuine concern.
“Well, I didn’t really feel like waiting for a cab to come up.  And the driveway down the hill is really long.”
“Your monkey ass is telling me you were too lazy to walk all the way down the driveway? So you  instead scaled a 200ft cliff?  Dude, are you fucking insane?”
“I would’ve taken a cab, but there weren’t any.  What, was I supposed to wait fifteen minutes?
“As opposed to plunging to a meaningless death? Yes!”  I looked over at Devi, who was as incredulous as I was. 
“Well, do you wanna hear what happened, or not?”
“O.K.  Go, go.”
“So it was too much effort to walk down the driveway and there were no cabs.  So, I was like, I can make it down this thing.  I just started climbing down, and then I was like this isn’t so bad.  So then I kept going.  I got tired for a bit but then I was so drunk, I don’t think it mattered.  I just kept going down these rocks.  There were a few bird’s nests in there that I had to toss away for my grip.  Oh, I saw this crazy ass orange lizard!  Anyway, so I’m climbing and I’m getting closer to the bottom.  I start hearing this clapping and whistling.  And then I look down and I see a whole line of taxis and the cabbies are all cheering me on.  So, you know, you can’t stop when you’ve got like fifty people cheering you on.  So I made it all the way down.”
I laughed so hard when I heard Brad’s idiot-of-the-century-story that I almost vomited again. 
“So what about your arm?” Devi and I asked in unison.
“Oh, this?” Brad asked while holding up his forearm with a 5in. gash.  “I don’t know.  I was somewhere along the way when it happened.  I guess I slipped a little.”  
“So, wait, what happened when you got back to the hotel?”
“Oh, yeah!  They were all like, ‘You can’t come in here.  You’re not supposed to be here,’ you know? ‘Cuz I was covered in all this mud and shit.  I had this big ‘ol gash on my arm.  They thought I just came from a brawl ”
“So, what did you do?”
“I got pissed and made them check the computer.  Then they asked for my ID.  So they check, and they’re like, ‘Oh shit. He does have a room here.’  So, they tell me to clean the dirt from my shoes and then they got two big-ass security guards to escort me to the room.”
“Holy shit.  Bradley, that is the single most ridiculously stupid thing I have ever heard anyone do in my entire life.  If I were Buddhist, it would be the single most ridiculously stupid thing I ever heard in thousands of lifetimes.  I am so proud that you are my best friend.”
“Sash, I’m gonna head back to my hotel,” Devi said as she tugged at my sleeve. I think I’m gonna go for a run and filter out all the alcohol.”
“O.K., girl.  Gimme as sec and I’ll walk you down.”
“No worries, sweetie.  I’m a big girl.  I can find my way.”
“When do I get to see you again?”
“Just gimme your number. I’ll call you.” 
Ouch!  I guess she just wanted attention, and I happened to be there.  I guess it’s just not meant to be.  How could I hide my disappointment?
“I feel so cheap!” I said, feigning humiliation.  “What, you think you can pick me up at a club, go to bed with me, then just leave?  I feel so…so…violated!” 
Devi laughed good-naturedly.  She leaned over, placed one hand on my shoulder, and kissed my cheek three times.  Then she rolled out of the bed and rose to her feet.  For the first time I noted how petite she was - no more than 5’1” tall and about 105 lbs. She slid the straps of her dress back over her shoulders, stepped into her stilettos, and pulled her sleek, black hair into a loose pony tail.  She took my hand, gave me a wink, and said, “That was fun.” And then she walked out the door.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Untitled Verse for the Girl at the Cafe

Wisps of lives content
Blink of an internal smile
The whole afternoon spent
Sunset thoughts for a mile

Polite replies, my id’s descent
Worldliness, an outdated style?
What romance could I ever invent?
To challenge beauty, so futile

Duress'd writing, with no relent
Fogged judgment, the whole Nile
My nurtured verse, without consent
In her own world she remains content 

Monday, November 1, 2010


I am Ronnet, forgotten by all for
That bastard Sonnet.  Let the emphasis
Fall where it may; let your words smoothly pour.
Iambs you worship while I show the kiss.
Servants of the couplet, blind to my passion.
I will never kill your most perfect lines.
No love, no evil will I soon ration.
Your prose not deployed to hungry mines.
Reveal yourself! Why wait for the couplet?
Must you detain your naked emotion
So your dreamed kisses are no longer wet?
Arousal restrained thwarts culmination.
Sonnet! You nourished my heart, then starved it.
The embodiment of love? Ha! Just a cheap hustler!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Group Therapy

John Boehner, Lady Gaga, Khloe Kardashian and LeBron James are seated together in a circle.

THERAPIST: Welcome to group therapy.  As the therapist, I'm here to guide you, but this is your time to entrust your peers to help you work through your issues.  OK, who would like to start us off?  OK, John, what's on your mind?

BOEHNER: What I think we need to do is talk about how this terrible economy is affecting people.

LADY GAGA: You're really orange.  If you tan any more you're going to be extra tasty crispy, dude!

KHLOE: OMG! I'm in sooo much pain!  I had a nipple firming this morning.

LEBRON: What the fuck is that?

KHLOE: It's when you get collagen injected into your nipple so that it stays hard.

LEBRON: Why would you want your nipple to be stayin' hard like that?

KHLOE: Duh! It totally looks like you're always aroused.  I'm so hoping Lamar will love it!

LEBRON: Oh, excuse me, guys.  There's gonna be a dude coming from ESPN.  He's just chillin' with me so that people can see LeBron James's sensitive side.

BOEHNER: LeBron - is it OK if I call you LeBron? What are you making, $10 million a year not counting endorsements?  Do you know how much youre taxes are going to go up once the Bush tax cuts expire?

LEBRON: So what are you sayin'?

BOEHNER: I'm saying that a Republican president would be better for LeBron James.

LEBRON: It would be better for LeBron James?

BOEHNER: Well, you'll be able to keep more of that "bling" you're getting from endorsements and the league.

LEBRON: Ummm. You don't get paid in" bling."  You use your money to buy bling.  But anyway, this is the first Black president.  I shot hoops with him the other day. [Pause]  But you say I pay less taxes under a Republican?

LADY GAGA: Shit! I just had had a vision.  I need to change one of my costumes.  I can't let my little monsters down!

[She begins singing]

I wanna lift your veil underneath the rocket fire.  Helmand! Oh Helmaaaand!  Twelve-year-old bride, you gotta run away.  Run away to me.

LEBRON: Hey guys.  Just wanted to let you know that my homies Chris and Dwayne are going to be swinging by in a bit.

KHLOE: OMG! I just figured out what I'm going to do for Lamar's birthday!  I'm going to get naked and let him eat sushi off me, just like they do in Japan. 

BOEHNER: Would that be cut roll or nigiri?

LADY GAGA: [Singing] Oh, run, run among the poppies.  Helmand! Oh Helmaaaand! Come to the 6'6" Arab man hiding in this cave.  I'm your only confidant.  Come to me.

LEBRON: My hands are kind of dry.  Does anyone have some Kiehl's hand salve?

KHLOE: [To LeBron] I loooove your loafers!  What are they made out of?

LEBRON: [To Khloe] Oh, these are crocodile, I think.

KHLOE: What's the difference between crocodile and alligator?

BOEHNER: I think we need to refocus and talk about all the illegal immigration going on in this country.

KHLOE: So, can you guys believe that someone wrote that I look like Ms. Piggy on my blog?  Ms. Fucking Piggy?  How cruel is that?

LEBRON: [To Khloe] That's just wrong, girl.  Just wrong. [Pauses] Hey, if you guys were with one sneaker company for a long time, but another sneaker company offered a little bit more, what would you do?

LADY GAGA: [Singing] Love me so gentle, love my kidneys back to life. Helmand!  Oh Helmaaaand!

BOEHNER: So I'm thinking of calling my new yacht Second Surge.  But, really we should be discussing how we're all going to be footing the bill for health care, while the rest of America gets a free pass.

LADY GAGA: [Stands up on her chair and sings] Do Do Do Do, only for.  Do Do Do Do only for you.  Baby can you feel it, Baby can you feel it?  Helmand! Oh Helmaaaand! I will lift your veil beneath the rocket fire. We will roast a lamb in the pyre.  Twelve-year-old-bride run away! Run away to me. Oh, I'll feed you some naan. We'll scream 'fuck the Taliban!"  Let's go far and hide.  I'll even let you drive.  Helmand!  Oh Helmaaaand!  Run among the poppies. I'm kneeling down on my knees.  Come to the 6'6" Arab man.  Tell me how far you ran. [Whispers]  I need you.  I feel you.  Hold me, baby.  Tell me we'll be safe.  Tell me you must hide with me. Love me so gentle, love my kidneys back to life. [Sings loudly]  Helmand!  Oh, Helmaaaand.

LEBRON: I just got a text from my boys.  Does anyone know if Ruth's Christ steakhouse is any good?

BOEHNER: One of the biggest problems in this country is stem cell research.  I think we should really have a discussion about it.

LEBRON [To Boehner] Isn't that when they take healthy cells from a embryo in a test tube and give them to another person to save their life?

BOEHNER: Uhhhhh.  Well, the issue is that embryo is a living thing.

KHLOE: But they don't, like, look like a fetus, do they?  You have to look at them under a microscope, don't you?

BOEHNER: Yes, but that's off topic.  The point is that these are living things.

LEBRON: But you're using them to save a human life though, right?

BOEHNER: Well, yes, that's often the case. But-

LADY GAGA: Oh! I wrote a paper on stem cell research once.  It's like 8 cells when the zygote becomes an embryo.  Stem cells are currently being used to treat many diseases that require the replacement of an organ or brain cells.

KHLOE: I so need to get my waxing done.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

All Too Far

All Too Far

Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly,
The Spiders from Mars.
He played it left hand, but made it too far,
Became the special man, then we were Ziggy's Band.

Ziggy really sang, screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo
Like some cat from Japan, he could lick 'em by smiling
He could leave 'me to hang
Came on so loaded man, well hung and snow white tan.

So where were the spiders while the fly tried to break our balls
Just the beer light to guide us,
So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet hands ?

Ziggy played for time, jiving us that we were Voodoo
The kids was just crass, he was the naz
With God given ass
He took it all too far but boy could he play guitar.

Making love with his ego Ziggy sucked up into his mind
Like a leper messiah
When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band

The US currently suffers from a crisis of identity.  Since the end of WWII existential threats from the Cold War resulted in the creation of a façade that does not reflect America’s true character.  In adopting the role of “Enforcer” the US seems to have lost sight of the principles that enabled it to enjoy the respect – almost veneration – of much of the world for developing the Marshall plan, taking a leadership position in the establishment of the United Nations and, of course, standing firm against the Soviet Republic.

 Throughout the post-WWII era, the US seems to have become so intent on projecting power it has blurred the lines over itself and its “Enforcer” alter ego.  America’s predicament is reminiscent of British rock legend David Bowie, who created a persona known to all as Ziggy Stardust.  Ziggy was based on a Bowie song of the same name, which appeared in the album entitled, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.”  Bowie began to perform as Ziggy and, in time, was unable to distinguish himself from Ziggy Stardust.  But Ziggy provided Bowie with the ultimate high as fans were so enamored of him, their adulation intensified into hysteria.  Bowie’s downfall was his consumption by this hysteria, so when Ziggy died, Bowie himself fell apart.

Like Bowie, the grandiosity stimulated by the US’s “Enforcer” role enabled it to feel powerful in the face of the Soviet threat. But the US’s reaction to its vulnerability caused it to take its duty as global policeman too far, leading to several foreign policy disasters during the Cold War.  As the bipolar conflict chilled in the 1950s, the US overwhelmed itself by focusing on short-term victories at the expense of producing fiercer long-term menaces.  The CIA overthrow of Iranian leader Mohammad Moseddegh, for instance, created the conditions for the 1979 Revolution and the ascension of Ayatollah Khomeini. 

With the ousting of governments in Iran, Guatemala and Chile, the US marginalized the opinions of its smaller, less powerful allies. Just as Ziggy had disregarded his band (The Spiders) the US became the “fly” that dominated the political goals of the western hemisphere.  Like the rest of Ziggy's band, there were no “spiders” to protect those countries that were coerced into supporting the US's policies.  And then, suddenly, in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.  Countries previously constrained by the impracticalities of Communism - China in particular - began to rise.  America’s economic and political dominance began to be challenged in a multipolar environment. 

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, America received the goodwill of leaders across the globe, both friendly and hostile.  Even Libyan autocrat Muammar Qaddafi said, “Irrespective of the conflict with America it is a human duty to show sympathy with the American people, and be with them at these horrifying and awesome events which are bound to awaken human conscience.”  But in launching a war against a benign Iraq, the US squandered much of the patronage it had received.  Melding into its “Enforcer” alter ego allowed the US to experience a front of virility that curtained its underlying impotence.  And just as Ziggy became the victim of the very fanaticism he created, the US began to suffer from the frenzy surrounding its own doppelganger. 

 The more the US has tried to exert its power against the “forces of evil,” the more it has made itself vulnerable to the very threat it seeks to quash.  Nuanced reports indicate that hundreds of well-trained soldiers from the Iraqi army are now rejoining Al-Queda.  Human rights abuses in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have fueled extremism in the Muslim world, as the hypocrisy of America as a defender of human rights has been exposed.  Recent Wikileaks documents describing torture of civilians in Iraq will exacerbate the situation.  Yet America continues to fuel itself on the fumes of the international exaltation it once enjoyed.

Like Ziggy, America has ignored the Spiders from Mars - the cadre of nations that were instrumental in enabling the US to become the sole surviving superpower.  While publicly agreeing to improvident US policies, they privately curse America.  Disgruntlement with the US is based on the fact that its foreign policy agenda is, oftentimes, detrimental to the community of nations.  The overarching concern of reluctant allies may be that the hubris of one can lead to the downfall of all.  Paradoxically, the “spiders” cannot go forth without the US.  They know that their prosperity requires concord with America.  Indeed, it would be contrary to a nation’s best interest to break from the US.  For The Spiders, going along with Ziggy, however exasperating, at least offered the fleeting chance that Ziggy would regain some sanity so that the group could be reborn.  

The Spiders were in a codependent relationship with Ziggy.  They couldn’t get through to him because he had simply “sucked up into his mind,” but at the same time could not leave him. In a similar way, many US allies contend its warmongering will only fuel the flames of Islamic extremism. The US is trying to keep the world enamored of it but, like Ziggy, the hysteria of its fans is fading.  To avoid the same fate the US must recognize its greatness does not stem from assuming some façade, but rather from embracing the principles of freedom, diplomacy and  multilateralism that have enabled it to be the great nation it has always been.