Sunday, December 18, 2005

Like a Debutante, Except in Boots

I've been putting myself out there socially as much as possible, since this is a town where it pays to know people and I don't know people yet. (For instance, if there were an announcement about a film festival where Kate Hudson was scheduled to give a short speech about baby seals and the flier said "Anyone who's anyone in D.C. will be there," I would not be there. So far, despite my badgering the publishers of "Who's Who" down the street, I am no one in this town.) Friday was the office Christmas party, where I was a big hit with my old lampshade-on-the-head routine and my offensive imitations of the boss, including some well-timed flatulence that really helped sell a punchline. Afterwards I went home and tried to take it from a 10 to about a 4 -- sit around smugly, enjoy some cheap sherry, read a book. But life, as the old saying goes, is what happens when you're making other plans, and JC arrived on the scene -- the telephone scene -- and told me there was a to-do in the District. I sauntered back out into the cold, as I always do, although it was after 9:00 and I was really cherishing my stuffed bear and Martin Amis collection. In order to arrive at the appointed place at the appointed time, I had to wait for the bus next to a lunatic Hispanic gentleman who pretended -- the word is not too strong -- to understand what I was saying, nodding and saying "Yes, I know, I know" and grinning like a con artist. It wouldn't have been half as bad if I hadn't really needed some answers out of him, like "Did the 10A arrive already?" and "What time is it?" and "Which bus are you waiting for?" ("Yes, I know! Ha ha ha!") When you don't speak the language, please remember that faking it is a not a viable strategy.

Eventually I left him behind and waited at a different stop for a different route, which came promptly, validating my somewhat callous behavior. Then it was three Metros to the spot, where I met him as expected (he'd planned to meet at a Starbuck's near Dupont Circle and it was closed when I got there -- he said we weren't meant to go in anyway) and where we continued to a house party, if that's what you can call four drunks sitting around blasting away at full glasses of imported Scotch. This is what happens, just for your information, when most of your friends are law students fresh from the semester's final exam. Making your living from studying patent law really makes you want to drink yourself stupid.

I sampled a curious concoction from Sicily, one of only two people man enough to do so, that looked about as green as absinthe -- and I mean the real stuff, not our namby-pamby watered-down Absente -- and tasted about twice as strong. It really was like drinking 150-proof freshly mown grass. I wish I remember the name, but someone told me this was the last time I'd ever be able to drink this, so likely as not someone brought it back from the home country anyway. We all sat around, agreeing that it was fine not to be in school -- although I had a bit of a different take on it than these poor suckers -- and wondering what to do with ourselves. Ardbeg, Talisker, port: these all made their merry way around the table, again and again, and let me tell you that I cannot drink nearly as much Scotch as these people. The last straw was the black-haired son of Greek immigrants downing three fingers of 12-year-old single malt in a trice without so much as cocking an eyebrow. (That is when you know you are going to "vacate," in lawyer's parlance, which he did soon after.) Eventually the last of the popcorn was eaten and a few of us decided to head out and make a night of it. J can be very convincing when he offers to shepherd you around town and show you a good time. So we went.

The first spot was unmemorable and we left soon after arriving. (Greek had followed us at first, but he went to a friend's apartment to sleep it off. This was fine because he had spent the walk to the bar speaking obscenities in his mother tongue.) We proceeded to a spot called Utopia, which I have to say was a real winner: nice ambience, live jazz -- sounding good without being unspeakably loud -- swell drink menu, appropriately urbane waitstaff, etc. We had two drinks there, despite my earlier vow to J that I would drink nothing and despite the Scotch and a revolting bottle of Amstel Light, and finally took a cab back to his place, where I slept on the couch.

In the morning he appeared in the living room with red underpants, a confused look and a screaming hangover. He had a hot train to catch and for time's sake I had to drive him, in his fancy new lawyer car, to Union Station where he was ticketed to the NYC. I was left to navigate my way, quite helplessly, back to his place some blocks away. After driving donuts in the pickup/dropoff area for about five minutes, I found my way out into traffic and promptly got lost, wandering aimlessly up and down the streets, knowing the intersection I had to get back to, not knowing why I was still lost when I got there. Where to park? Where do I turn in? What is that green fire hydrant doing over there? I broke down and called him, now ensconced on the 11:35 to Manhattan, and he talked me through it, even generously (if unadvisedly) offering to let me use the car for the day. I thought about it. Then I parked and decided I wanted nothing more to do with driving these misbegotten roundabout streets.

I got home and packed my Christmas gifts, then my roommate -------- (the shifty fellow) kindly drove me to the nearest FedEx where I shipped everything -- not exactly in the nick of time, since it was about 5:00 on a Saturday and the last express pickup had been some hours ago -- and from whence we proceeded to "grab some Chinese," as bachelors have it. We had a good talk and he gained my friendship and nodding respect. He knows things.

In the evening I had a party invitation to follow up on, so I hopped a bus -- always to go into the city, I must hop a bus, a most undignified affair in winter -- and headed to Crystal City Metro Station, as usual, thence to Foggy Bottom by way of L'Enfant Plaza and Metro Center, neither of which I would have gotten off at had I known where I was going. The problem was this: I am new to cell phone etiquette, and I had forgotten to charge my nearly dead unit before leaving the house. I had to place a call to my friend ----- (a hilarious guy from work, unbeknownst to the rest of those fuddy-duddies) to ask for directions, and actually managed to do so except he did not answer. I told him I was on the subway and didn't know where to go exactly -- I had an intersection to head to from earlier in the week that he'd handed me furtively, but not knowing the city I didn't know which stop to "vacate." I turned my phone off to save battery after leaving him a message, thinking I'd turn it back on in five minutes, eagerly anticipating some final instructions that would save me the embarrassment of screaming for help. I turned it on as planned, dialed my message box and was greeted with the following: "Hi, it's ----..... Uhhh, it's about two thirty my time, whiiiiiich I thiiiiiink means it's abooooouuuuuut four" and then a beep because the phone was dead. I submit to the reader that everyone was at fault here.

I found the place after a stranger let me use his phone on the street -- I offered to take off my boots so I wouldn't run away with it, and he looked like he was weighing the possibility before telling me it wouldn't be necessary. The party was a fine time, especially because of the outrageous seventh-floor view from the window wall overlooking Foggy Bottom. Even at night the town is worth staring at. I made myself as much of a nuisance as usual, splashing my head in the punch bowl and accusing people of spying on me. My workmate suggested a game in which we pick people's most outstanding physical flaw and exploit it in conversation, which we played from the safety of a couch without the attendant shame of having our own foibles thrown back in our faces. He, for instance, has a haircut that looks fresh off the assembly line. I couldn't figure out how to use that, but the brilliant assemblage of lawyers, magistrates and noblemen surely would have laid him low. He did put a permanent chit in his bank account with a notice that a certain partygoer was the spitting image of an early Bond villain, someone "who looks like he could really make trouble for Double Oh-Seven." You kind of had to be there to see this person to appreciate how hilariously apt the whole thing was. Saggy eyes, thin beard/moustache, pale skin, humorless expression, like a Soviet apparatchik trying to steal a missile.

Eventually I gambled that the Metro was still running at 2:00 -- thankfully it does, which I thought should be the case -- and finally got home around 3:00, after a short jaunt in a taxi with a driver from Gambia, where he often returns. Good guy. Deep, hearty voice. Hat.

Today I took it easy. I have been eating the same box of leftover veggie fried rice all day and wish I could put something better in my system. I'm headed to Chris' house for dinner and to meet his other daughter, fresh from her second year of architecture undergrad. I hope I am not the evening's main entertainment. I am running on empty after doing the old soft shoe all weekend.


Anonymous MikeSwanson said...

So he was convinced that you couldn't run off without boots? You should've sprinted out of there minus two prospector's relics and plus one gullible sucker's expensive cell phone. It's heartening to know that tomorrow's high-powered lawyers are drinking so much. You should explain to them that that is not what "passing the bar" means. Have you tried a little trick that I picked up from my old roommate: eat an oily meal shortly before you go out drinking to coat your stomache so that liquor is not absorbed as easily through your stomache lining? Sounds crazy, but despite the obesity involved if you are drinking constantly, I tolerated 60 oz of sake one night with this method. Well, if you don't count falling off the roof. Or you could just carry a bottle of olive oil with you for a chaser or mixer.

7:59 PM  

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