Monday, February 28, 2005

If Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head I Use An Umbrella, Otherwise...

It snowed here today and I noticed something that I've never realized before. Here in New York, people will actually use umbrellas for snow. Is it me or is that odd?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

In Search Of Connection

I’m in the mood for a long phone conversation; one that has no verbal roadmap and no ulterior motive. At its heart are truths shared between two people. I find that I only have those types of conversations with three people: Adrianna, Margo and Molly. I think the key to these relationships is that we’re past that “getting to know you” bullshit that mires most conversations. And it only works if there’s no time restraint; no pressing matters to attend to. That’s when you really share. For me it’s usually in the dark, lying down on my bed with the window wide open. Things just come out. Stuff that you’ve never said out loud. Things so deep and personal that you don’t have to mention that these bits of truth are not to be revealed to the outside world. It’s understood. And when it's over you feel rejuvenated. It's the kind of conversation that's good for your soul.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

He Is Quite Tall

“So what do you do?”
I get this question often as a server. It smacks of commentary. Those who say it seem to imply that my job as a server is beneath my natural standing. And while I don’t want to serve for the rest of my life, I do think that there is nobility in the profession. I've always believed that service is not servitude. And hopefully without sounding arrogant, I can say this: I’m good at it.

Tonight was among the highlights of my service career. I’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t meet or work with people you admire or revere because they’ll never meet the standard you’ve set for them. Tonight this gentleman proved that sentiment wrong. I served Conan O’Brien. He turned out to be among the kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of serving. Accompanied by his wife and a friend, they were delightful. They weren’t demanding and did not ask for preferential treatment. They were grateful for the extra course we sent out to them and tipped over 20%. His wife even started a couple of mini-conversations with me.

Rewind. A couple tables over from the O’Brien table, a very large inebriated man grabbed my arm to get my attention. When I was clearing the aforementioned extra course she said to me, “Did that man just grab you?” It was wonderful the way she asked—equal parts concern and outrage. I responded that he had and that I hadn’t taken offense, which in truth I hadn’t. (If he had maliciously done so that would be a different story but he was just a little drunk.) Move to dessert when Mrs. O’Brien had given her husband her glass of wine. This was close to the end of their evening and they had polished off a second bottle of wine. So as I was clearing the dessert course, I can see that she had pushed her glass towards him. “I can see you pawned that off on him.” She smiled and whispered, “Yeah I did.” At the end of the meal, when I brought back the bill to Mr. O’Brien after running his credit card, he took a moment to stop his conversation and shake my hand. “Thank you for everything. You were wonderful.” His wife and friend concurred. I was dumbfounded. All I could say to my co-workers the rest of the night was, “He shook my hand. Conan O’Brien shook my hand!” Now I have this anecdote to tell when I go on his show.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Notes On Snow

I‘m a snow baby. I was born during Cleveland’s Blizzard of ’78 . I understand this time of year better than any other because I’m one of its children.

It snowed tonight. It was fluffy and light; the kind of snowfall that instantly reminds you of a snow globe. I was reminded of that scene in WONDER BOYS when Professor Tripp and James Leer discover each other outside of the English Department party, as well as that scene from THE WEST WING when Josh comes home and finds Amy on his stoop waiting for him. The snow wasn’t violent, but instead each flake drifted aimlessly in the wind. It conjured up images of Norman Rockwell paintings and hot chocolate. Three marshmallows snow.

One of my strongest memories of living in New York City happened just a month ago. It was after work on a Saturday night and I had arrived at my subway stop. As I ascended to the surface I discovered the path I walk home, completely covered by a full foot of snow. Untouched. I wished I had had a camera. Its beauty made me take pause. Much like a perfectly plated dish, you just stare at it for a minute. And then I walked home taking some pleasure in being the first to put footprints on the blank white canvas. It awoke the explorer in me.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


I’ve been having a recurring dream ever since my birthday. It features a seven year old girl following me around during my day. It's a normal day. I shop, have lunch with Molly, go to work. She's there. Following me at a perfect distance. Every time I have this dream the only thing that changes is the events that I'm a part of. I guess what's notable about the dream is that she will casually list what famous people have done by the time they reached the age of 27. “Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Italy before he reached the ripe old age of 27.” “Kurt Vonnegut Jr. quit his job at General Electric to become a full-time writer by the age of 27.” “Ernest Hemingway published his first novel by the time he was 27.” That sort of stuff. (I’m not even sure any of this information is correct.) I know what part of the dream is about but why does it manifest itelf in the form of a young girl? Can anyone answer that for me?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Making A Move

So J and I go to brunch most Sundays. We alternate between PRUNE and AUGUST. AUGUST has an amazing room, equal parts warm and comforting. The food is good but the main reason for going to AUGUST is that I have a thing for one of the young women that works there. Let’s call her “Stephanie”. And per my usual self, I didn’t notice that she was into me. (To be quite honest, I’m not even sure she was. J might be pulling my leg.) In any case, I’d like to ask out this girl and I think I’ve figured out a way to do so. Most of you probably like the direct approach. “Hi I’m (fill in the blank). I’d like to take you out sometime for a malted.” Something along those lines. But me, I’m not that guy. I’m really a…what’s the word…ah yes, a chicken. I’ve never asked a girl out face to face. It’s always been a transaction done by phone for me. But I’ve found a loophole that will allow me to continue being the chicken that I am and get a possible date with “Stephanie”.

Okay so last time J and I were in AUGUST, I heard a couple of songs from the restaurant's sound system that sounded familiar and then I asked “Stephanie”, “Is this THE LIFE AQUATIC soundtrack?” She was slightly shocked and mostly pleased that I was astute enough to figure this out. She admitted that it was and went onto explain how she loves Wes Anderson films. I too am a huge Wes Anderson fan, although I explained that I was disappointed by his most recent outing, THE LIFE AQUATIC. We traded friendly barbs and went about our business. After we leave, J admits that “Stephanie” was totally into me and why didn’t I ask her out. Well you can guess where that conversation ended. So now J has got me all worked up over this situation. But I think I got an angle as to how I can casually ask her out. I could bring her something that might interest her as a Wes Anderson fan. BOTTLE ROCKET is Wes Anderson’s first film and it was originally a short. I have a copy of the short. (Which is not commercially available.) And I thought maybe I could bring it into AUGUST on Sunday and let her borrow it. So I’m imagining it would go something like this.

“Stephanie” walks by.
Me: I brought you something!
“Stephanie”: Oh?
Me: Yeah I remember how last time I was here we got to talking about Wes Anderson and I actually have a copy of the original BOTTLE ROCKET short. I brought it for you.
“Stephanie”: Oh my god! That’s…I can’t….
Me: It’s only a copy and I’m only lending it to you, but I’ve included my number so you can call me when you’re done with it. Maybe we could talk about it sometime.
“Stephanie”: That’d be…yes. I’d love that. This is so thoughtful.

And then we’d make out. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

Last night, I realized that it’s been so long since I’ve had sex that I began to wonder if it has changed at all. Any new technological developments in the field? Do things still "go" where I think they "go"?

Monday, February 21, 2005

"So B what's up with the blog title?"

THE LAST POLKA is a Ben Folds Five song. It’s about a couple breaking up and told through the eyes of the woman. There’s a great lyric that I think is among the truest things I’ve ever heard. It goes something like this, “The cruelest lies are often told without a word. The kindest truths are often spoken, never heard.” Why did I pick this as my blog title? You’ll have to listen to the song and decide for yourself.

PS--If you like the song you should listen to its sister song, MISSING THE WAR, which tells the same story through the eyes of the man.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

My Fingers Are All PRUNE-y

I love brunch. For me it conjures up images of getting up late, wearing jeans, drinking mimosas and reading the Sunday NEW YORK TIMES. Brunch is comfort personified. This past week has been rough for me. Work has been grueling and I've been sick. But I saw this brunch as a way of rewarding me for this past week and setting the tone for the upcoming one. My brunch companions today were Molly, my restaurant colleague Demian and his girlfriend Jamie. A faux double date if you will.

I got to PRUNE almost an hour before we were to meet up because the restaurant doesn’t take reservations and there’s always an absurd line to get in. Today was no different. The wait for the four of us ended up being about an hour and a half (but I was the only one to wait the entire time). Most people would not wait that long for a table and I normally wouldn’t either, but it’s PRUNE brunch. If there’s a better Spaghetti Carbonara on the planet I haven’t come across it. (Carbonara is an Italian dish that features spaghetti, egg, Parmesan cheese, lardons of bacon and black pepper…a true Carbonara has no cream.) Simple. I dream about this dish.

Let me take a moment to mention that PRUNE has a Bloody Mary menu. They feature 12 or so variations of the tomato based drink. Each is accompanied by a chaser of Red Stripe beer. I had the Bloody Bull (made with beef bouillon and the perfect compliment to the Carbonara). Demian had the Mariner which is made with gin and clam juice. The Classic preparation was Jamie’s preference (although she asked for a splash of clam juice) while Molly went against the grain and chose the always welcome Mimosa.

Demian, Jamie and I also had Peet’s Coffee (my favorite coffee purveyor). And then later Molly and I had hot chocolate which is garnished with a homemade peppermint marshmallow. Oh and we all drank Panna water. Needless to say there was a lot of liquid on the table.

Brunch was a smashing success. Conversation was light and witty, filled with moments of small talk and thoughtful pauses. Brunch talk. Jamie is a delightful young woman with a slight Southern lilt. Demian, my co-worker and rock star buddy, was funny and charming. They make for a wonderful couple. (Demian so pleased with everything he gave the host Beret a hug. She was startled but gracious. Also as chef/owner Gabrielle Hamilton brought us our dessert Demian blurted out, “This is the best brunch I’ve ever had!" Jamie added, "And this is our first time!” Without missing a beat, Chef Hamilton responded, "First time having brunch!")

Post-brunch all three of them accompanied me to Crate and Barrel to help me select plates and glassware. I had never been to Crate and Barrel, but it’s a daunting experience. There is so much selection at reasonable prices that it’s difficult to make a choice. But with their help I chose some great stuff and now officially have plates. So get off my back J!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Caving to Common Sense

J and Molly finally broke me. My resistance was always strong, but tonight I decided to cave to common sense. I’m going to buy dishes. I’m going to Crate and Barrel tomorrow after brunch and picking up a few plates. Now I’m not going to get sets of anything. I’m just one guy and it’s not like I have much company over. But a few plates, some glassware, a couple bowls. I’m predicting that nothing will match. But it’s a step in the right direction. At least next time someone comes over I’ll be able to give them a bowl for their macaroni and cheese.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Finite Amount

I have nothing to write about today. Fourth fucking entry and I can’t come up with anything to write. And this was always my main concern starting up my own blog. Could I write at a quality that I’m proud of for an extended amount of time?

The fear for any writer is that one only has a finite amount of energy and ideas, so to introduce a new project into the mix that could very well be a detrimental to your goals as an artist. Does that make sense? Okay, this can be paralleled to my worry about being a parent. Okay, hypothetically I have one kid. Then my wife gives birth to another child—boom. Now I must divide in half the love I have for the first child to give to my second child. And so on and so forth. This theory can be translated to my situation at the moment. Should I spend time writing for my blog or write the screenplay I’ve been avoiding for weeks? I only have a finite amount of creativity, you know?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Wedding Bells Toll For Thee

Last night, Molly invited me to be her date for a wedding she’s going to in April. This will be the third time we’ve gone to a wedding together. It’s her favorite cousin’s wedding so we’ll be surrounded by her family. It’s odd that she would ask me. She gave me the impression that she wanted to ask me for a while now, but hadn’t for some reason.

I guess it’s time to mention that I was engaged once. I’d rather not go into the details of the affair, other than to mention that all of it was embarrassing and absurd. But it will explain my next statement: I don’t really like weddings. Couple that with being surrounded by people I don’t know and I’m stressed out more than I normally am (which is fairly high to begin with). A recipe for disaster would include alcohol and of course that will be available in abundance at this event. So I’m thinking to myself: "Why did I say yes?" I said yes immediately after she asked me. Knee jerk. What the hell is wrong with me? Anyone?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

34 Unfurled

I get to work early every day. An hour early to be exact. There are a couple of reasons for this: I’m conscientious about my job and don’t like being rushed. But I also go because outside of my restaurant, I get to watch kids on their way home from school with their mothers, fathers or nannies. I watch as they stroll past my restaurant--children recounting their days for the taller person. There’s something that makes me feel so wonderful watching this. Part of me wishes I could be out there with them. But I’m inside. Working. Kids don’t understand that the world is a complicated place. To them the world is full of possibilities. And it is, but gray hasn’t seeped into their black and white world. It’s a simpler existence. One that I envy.

But there’s something else going on here. Whenever I see a kid with a parent I get a little upset. I’m jealous. You see I don’t want kids. It’s not because I don’t love children. My father is a pediatrician so I’ve always been around kids. And kids, from my experience, like me. Heck I’m still a kid. But my destined career of film writer/director is a demanding job. It requires a time commitment that is unforgiving and inflexible. And I know myself. The fact that I wouldn’t be home to pick my kids up everyday from school...that would kill me. I know that time spent together at such a ripe age is key in a child’s development. And I wouldn't want to miss a minute of it. My father missed a great deal of my childhood because of his job and I promised myself I wouldn't be that kind of father. (I have no ill feelings towards my dad. We actually have a pretty good relationship. But what if my kids aren't as understanding?) I respect the profession of parenting too much not to fully serve it.

Monday, February 14, 2005

100 Things I've Learned (about myself and the world)

1. People who don’t hold wine glasses by the stem annoy me.

2. I hate it when people correct me with incorrect information.

3. I love talking when I’m lying down.

4. A great meal has more to do with the company than the food.

5. I don't own an iPod and I'm not sure I want one.

6. I’m at my best when I’m directing.

7. When I'm drinking, I only consume wine or beer.

8. I embellish every story for my own amusement.

9. If you can’t take a joke I’ve started and run with it, then I won’t find you funny.

10. Men who drink fruity drinks disturb me.

11. People never surprise me because I won’t let them.

12. I give good phone.

13. I think all people have one superpower. Mine is that I can tell you what the best thing on any menu is.

14. New York City is the greatest city in the world.

15. I’d rather work with kind people than talented people. Because talent is everywhere, kindness is not.

16. Cast it right and directing is easy.

17. My two favorite characters in literature are Phoebe Caulfield and Horatio.

18. If I see something I think someone I know should have, then I’ll just get it for them regardless of money.

19. If I have something you need and I don’t need it, I’ll lend it to you. If I like you, I’ll give it to you outright.

20. My faith is important to me.

21. People who think live theatre is not exciting hasn’t seen good theatre.

22. A woman in an oxford shirt is much sexier than a woman naked.

23. BIG NIGHT, BOTTLE ROCKET, MAGNOLIA, THE GRADUATE and FARGO are my five favorite films.

24. I like getting my feet and back rubbed.

25. I sleep with the window open during the winter and pull the blanket over me so I have temperature options.

26. I’ve seen Ben Folds over ten times in concert.

27. NjP is my writing partner and best friend.

28. The woman I’m in love with is also my touchstone.

29. Raymond Carver is the one person who has died that I’d like to talk to.

30. When I’m home I’ll put on all the lights and multiple appliances so that I can trick myself into thinking there’s someone else with me.

31. I hold grudges.

32. I’m extremely loyal to my friends.

33. I’ve never asked a woman out face to face.

34. I don’t want kids.

35. The list of actors I want to work with is almost absurdly long.

36. My food and wine knowledge is higher than average.

37. I’ve been yelled at by the best chef in the country.

38. The first woman I fell in love with responded by telling me she was gay.

39. I’ve never cheated.

40. I flirt well, but can never gauge a woman’s interest in me.

41. I’m an above average server because I care.

42. I’m not as good at The Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon game as my friends think I’d be.

43. I watch and tape interviews.

44. I’m a basketball junkie.

45. I’m not a good fan. I like drama. I’d rather see my team lose by one in a last second thriller, than have them win in a blowout.

46. I never make the first move.

47. I don’t read or listen to music on the subway.

48. People who frame photographs scare me.

49. Cleveland food I miss living in New York City: MR. HERO Hot Buttered Cheesesteak, LOLA BISTRO Macaroni and Cheese and RUGGLES Golden Vanilla Ice Cream.

50. If pushed I can sing the theme songs of CHARLES IN CHARGE and GROWING PAINS.

51. The one time I was the lead in a play I got a standing ovation.

52. Using my fingers, I can flip a pen twice in my hand.

53. I’ve never learned the gift of receiving.

54. People who preach their religion creep me out.

55. You want to know someone better? Smoke a cigar with them.

56. Ambition is a quality that I think everyone should have.

57. I believe that self-deprecation is the appetizer of charm.

58. I never wear socks or slippers when I’m home.

59. I seriously considered getting fired from the restaurant I was working in just to get Woody Allen’s autograph.

60. I think people that think that food service is easy should be forced to work in a restaurant for one Saturday night.

61. My favorite meal is Sunday brunch.

62. I don’t have a “type”.

63. Women who are willing to wear glasses are infinitely more attractive than those who don’t.

64. I prefer traveling by subway than by car.

65. If I could start over I think that I might try to be an NBA head coach or political speechwriter.

66. I like having sway.

67. I won’t dance unless I’m drunk.

68. Unexpected gifts are the best kind.

69. As I get older, I’ve noticed that I care less and less about my appearance.

70. I want a girl that is willing to listen to a film with director’s commentary on.

71. I’ve fallen in love with one female actor on every film I’ve made.

72. During my senior year of high school I seriously considered becoming a priest.

73. People who order anything “skim” are idiots.

74. My wine palate is becoming more and more refined.

75. Kicking the chair in front of you at a movie theatre is unacceptable and should be grounds for immediate dismissal from the premises.

76. I love eating out.

77. Being a fan of someone shouldn’t negate any dissent you feel towards their work.

78. I’m not sure I’m built for marriage.

79. Every film or play, no matter how bad, has at least one redeeming element.

80. Chivalry isn’t dead. I won’t let it.

81. The best gift I’ve ever received is a digital voice recorder.

82. Injustice we do not stop means we tacitly approve of it.

83. Lateness is unacceptable.

84. It’s always better to overdress than to underdress.

85. Learn to laugh at yourself. You’ll live longer.

86. The best humor is a little sad.

87. If it comes down to saying something or not saying something, say nothing.

88. Underestimate no one.

89. Simplicity is almost always the most impressive thing to strive for.

90. Never ignore the given circumstances.

91. Everyone should know how to open a bottle of wine.

92. I’m a slight film snob and I’m a wee bit ashamed of it.

93. Bisexuality is greediness run amok.

94. Snail mail will always be the form of communication that makes people happiest.

95. I don’t listen to lyrics unless I like the tune.

96. My favorite ice cream flavor is butter pecan.

97. Occasionally, I’ll spend a whole day watching movies without a break for food.

98. I’m not good at concealing my emotions.

99. I love watching poker, but know that I’d just be an average player.

100. I don’t know how to skate, bike or ski and I don’t plan on learning how to do any of those things.