367: lovin’ is really my game

1. a brief note before we begin

I can’t work in complete silence. I certainly can’t write in complete silence. I need to have music playing when I work, if only so I have an excuse to take dance breaks when I’m supposed to be writing a flip front. My writing music tends to vary. I go through phases. When I was a fourth year in college, I listened to Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville” almost every day of winter and spring quarter while I was working on what ended up being, at best, a mediocre senior paper. I even listened to it in the shower. My roommate at the time was Seema, and I don’t think I ever apologized enough for putting her through that. Lately, I’ve been listening to Teddy Pendergrass, Stevie Wonder, Eva Cassidy, Earth Wind & Fire, The Buzzcocks, Massive Attack, and pretty much anything that gets me “in the mood”, as they say. So when you read the following flip front (and please do read it — do not skim as I know some of you do) I recommend you listen to at least one of the following songs:

    Doves, “Some Cities”
    R. Kelly, “Step in the Name of Love (Remix)”
    Jill Scott, “Gettin’ in the Way”
    Stevie Wonder, “All I Do”
    Teddy Pendergrass, “Close The Door”
    Earth Wind & Fire, “Love’s Holiday”
    Eva Cassidy, “Songbird”

2. on the road (8/12, 8/13)

Olivia and I set out Friday morning, after stopping for breakfast (McDonald’s drive-thru), miscellaneous supplies (Target — I had to pick up my new blood pressure medication), and gas (which hovered just below the $3 mark). The heat and the humidity of the day followed us as we headed east across Indiana and Ohio. Which is not to say that as soon as we crossed the border into Pennsylvania that all of a sudden the weather became mild and temperate. Hell no. Far from it. Oh, and let’s not forget the traffic, less-than-pleasant smelling roadside bathrooms, and the profusion of junk food consumed by me. By the time we reached Pittsburgh, I was exhausted but keyed up. I wanted to stretch my legs, eat proper food, and see Rachel Blake for the first time in years.

Rachel, her boyfriend Rob, and their dog Zebu live in Squirrel Hill. Or perhaps it’s actually *on* Squirrel Hill. Either way, it was a charming neighborhood. All old houses, big trees hanging over the sidewalk. At night, the sound of cicadas. We were late getting into town, but Rachel and Rob were very gracious about having to wait until 9:00 so we could eat dinner together. They took us to the Indian Garden for dinner, where I had to specify, on a scale from 1 to 10, how hot I wanted my tikka masala to be. I went for 4. Then, a quick drive around downtown, past the Warhol Museum and PNC Park. Home for popsicles with their houseguest Lynn and episodes of “Flash Gordon” on DVD. I slept on the couch, the air conditioning blasting away. It was bliss.

We departed at 9 the next morning after a quick breakfast and a few minutes spent queuing up songs on our respective MP3 players. Oh, and after reading that New York Times article about how Philadelphia is the sixth borough of New York. You know the article — it was in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times. Forwarded the article URL to Nick/Nadine/Mike and anticipated much talk about this upon my arrival in PHL.

But back to the drive. It should come as no surprise that I sing in the car. I will sing anywhere but in the car I am virtually unstoppable. It’s kind of obnoxious, I know, but I don’t think it’s fair to expect me to keep quiet when “Love Train” comes on. I’m just saying. Fortunately, Olivia did not mind this at all and we formed quite a formidable team. I see a future in competitive karaoke for us.

Some of the songs we sang as we drove along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, past the creepy giant windmills, foggy valleys, and the occasional barn:

    Rufus & Chaka Khan, “Sweet Thing”
    Erykah Badu, “Tyrone”
    Tina Turner, “Let’s Stay Together”
    Mary J. Blige & Method Man, “I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need to Get By”
    LL Cool J, “Around The Way Girl”
    The Roots, “You Got Me” (live version from “The Roots Come Alive”)
    The Jackson Five, “Never Can Say Goodbye”

So yes, we will be forming a girl group in the next few months or so. And yeah, I will totally be the Diana Ross of the group. Mwa ha ha ha ha.

Anyway. We got to Philly at, like, 2:30 in the afternoon. The day was bright and humid, which didn’t really matter to me as two days of driving and somewhat lax grooming had already been enough to make me look as though I’d just escaped from a reformatory school. Olivia dropped me off at Nick and Nadine’s where I set my bags down and took a long cool shower. Called Stef, talked about the glycemic index of various alcoholic beverages and other foodstuffs of particular interest. Naturally, after all this talk about red wine and dark chocolate, I found that I was famished. Nadine and I snacked on some hummus and salad while we waited for Sean to arrive on the 7pm Chinatown bus from New York. Collected Sean at the bus station, returned home, parked car, then the five of us (me, Nick, Nadine, Olivia, Sean) went to Grace Tavern for burgers. The neighborhood was sufficiently charming. Cars drive somewhat haphazardly at times, but not very quickly. All manner of cute boys and cute girls walking about. As we were near Rittenhouse Square, a lot of the rowhouses were very posh and well-kept. Fancy bootscrapes and artfully distressed plantation shutters on the windows. Overflowing windowboxes and American flags galore.

After dinner, we returned to the apartment. Waited for Mike to show up so we could go to Fergie’s Pub to meet Stef (in town for a conference). While we waited we tried to step to R. Kelly’s “Step In The Name Of Love”. We did okay, considering the only instruction we had came from the song itself:

    Step, step, side to side
    Round and round, dip and glide
    Separate, bring it back
    Now let me see you do the love slide

Mike arrived and though he claimed that he didn’t know how to step, he did a really good job at twirling Olivia, and then me, around the apartment.

(The stepping of Saturday night reminds me now that there were a lot of random dance breaks over the weekend. Mainly at the apartment. Tuesday’s dance-a-thon to the Scissor Sisters’ cover of “Comfortably Numb” with Nadine and Matt was especially choice.)

Saturday night was a bit of a bust — Fergie’s was crowded and loud so we ended up at Ludwig’s up the street. We missed Stef at Ludwig’s, as she and the other sociologists had been in the other room the whole night. My lambic was delicious, though. By the time we found Stef, I was about to fall asleep so I said a quick hello and goodbye and dragged my ass home in a taxi. On the way home, we drove past Philadelphia Home & Garden, whose awning read “P.H.A.G.” Nick pointed out that we were in what most folks referred to as the “gayborhood”. Bwa ha ha ha ha.

3. bella vista (8/14)

Of course we got up on the late side. It was just about high noon as we (Nick, Nadine, Sean, me) rolled up to Bella Vista in search of breakfast. The wait at Sabrina’s was over an hour, unless we wanted to sit outside in the hot hot heat, in which case we could totally eat straightaway. This was not ideal, so we walked to Morning Glory and waited a mere twenty minutes before being seated.

Notes on MG:

    a. I should have gotten the fish platter

    b. Turkey bacon is my friend.

    c. There was this baby that all the other lady patrons kept cooing over. But the kid wasn’t all that cute.

    d. Twee young lesbian couple two tables away. Adorable in their earnestness and hirsuteness, I was nonetheless horrified when the one in the tiny mini skirt bent over to pick her tote bag off the floor, flashing her cooch to the entire the restaurant. At least she remembered
    to wear clean underpants.

We walked around a bit after breakfast, stopping at Di Bruno’s so I could buy some fizzy things to drink for the evening cookout at Mike’s. I could live in Di Bruno’s, surrounded by olives and sausage and cheese. Under wicker baskets and round bottles of fancy olive oils and vinegars. I was dragged away before I made a nest behind the barrels of olives so we could drive around — through Northern Liberties (like the Ukrainian Village before the hipsters invaded), down South Street (bridge & tunnel!), around Old City (where the history comes from), past the Art Museum (didn’t see the Rocky statue, no) and along the Schuylkill River. By the way, I am still not 100% sure on how to pronounce the word “Schuylkill”.

I tried to nap after all that driving, but I was too excited about the cookout so I chopped some vegetables and tried to not be totally useless. And Matt arrived, fresh from two months of chaperoning college students in London. Incidentally, ladies, Matt’s single and still adorable. So if you want an introduction, just send me $50 and I will set something up. Think of me not as Matt’s pimp, but as his social secretary instead.

We walked to Mike’s, slouched through the heat, laden with raw meat and marinated vegetables. On the way over, Nick was accosted by a round woman wearing a faded bathing suit. They walked for a bit, but neither Matt nor I could bring ourselves to horn in on their conversation. Nick told us later that she needed to get to a hospital so she could have a quick checkup on her pregnant belly before her dinner date that evening. Did I forget to mention that she’d already had her tubes tied?

Mike’s place — tiny but potent. I don’t know how any girl could walk into the place and not want to immediately get down. Full bar. Fuzzy rugs and pillows on squishy couches. All manner of indirect lighting — table lamps, holiday twinkle lights on the ceiling — to flatter any and all who stood in their vicinity. Who cares if he has to refrigerate perishables in two of those small fridges found in most American dorm rooms? The man had an ample supply of maraschino cherries, *and* a working fireplace. There were these gorgeous mod paintings of these very sexy women in op art swirls. Mike said they were his mom’s, which to my mind could mean that either she painted them, or she was the sexy chick in them. Mike showed me the loft where his bed is, and I think I made him blush when I asked him if that was, in fact, “where the magic happens”. Seriously. I wanted to know. I should have taken notes so I could use his tips and techniques to turn my bedroom into a boudoir.

So we grilled. We caught up. We tried to step. I tried to get Andreas to dance but he insisted he didn’t know how. Which, to my ears, sounds like “Oh, please, Jasmine, please teach me how to dance” but he wasn’t having any of it.

Mike kicked us out at 11 or so. So we (Matt, Nick, Olivia, me) rallied a bit and headed to a bar near Nick & Nadine’s. I did the following:

    a. drank alcohol (two vodka & cranberries)

    b. smoked cigarettes (3)

Yes, I know this is not progress, but I’ve learned that I must instead do something else with my mouth when I want to smoke. Whistle, maybe. Chew gum. Kiss strangers. Whatever.

The bar was a lovely place to be that night, as there was a huge thunderstorm that would have possibly drowned us had we tried to walk home. As it was, the gutters were full and a light rain was still falling as we made our way home and to bed.

4. double feature (8/15)

10:30-ish: Nadine makes us eggs and cappucinos (as she had been doing every morning since we arrived), then leaves early for a job interview.

1:00-ish: Walk through Rittenhouse Square to Center City so I can shop a bit.

1:30-ish: Find a camouflage knife/lighter/flashlight set in the window of a smoke shop. It cries out “I am the perfect birthday present for Patrick!” Sadly, only the set in the window is left, and it has already been reserved by somebody else. Boo.

1:45-ish to 2:30: Used book store. Yay! I buy an etiquette book written by Craig Claiborne.

3:00: Home again. Olivia collects me and Matt for a 3:40 show of “Wedding Crashers”.

3:40 to 6-ish: Laugh my ass off. Eat popcorn.

6:30: Home. Rest.

7:15-ish: Dinner at Pico de Gallo with Nick/Olivia/Matt. Matt has the pork/plantain/black bean burrito, which I want to snatch from him, it looks so good.

8:40: Cab to Ritz East for 9pm show of “The Aristocrats”. Driver drops me off at its sibling, the Ritz, so I run three blocks of cobblestone streets in wedge sandals to the correct theater. Naturally, I am all sweaty when Andreas turns up with his friends. “Yeah, hi, this is Jasmine. Don’t mind the sweat — I think she’s got the DT’s.”

9:00: I find “The Aristocrats” hilarious. Andreas, less so, I think. See, I told you people that my amusement threshold and my tolerance for obscenity is virtually non-existent.

11:15: Drink at bar no. 1 with Andreas, housemate Mike, and Albanian guy whose name I cannot remember. Deirdre bailed on us at this point, so I am the lone girl with a bunch of boys. It’s like “On The Town”, and I’m Ann Miller, and they’re Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Jules Munshin. Only not so much with the dancing. Bar no. 1 features a big screen television showing a baseball game, loud music, and men unafraid to express themselves through the display of gold necklaces worn over their designer t-shirts. Klassy. The Albanian splits an order of wings with Housemate Mike.

11:45: Drink at bar no. 2. Dirty Frank’s — it’s basically the Beachwood in Wicker Park, down to the cracked linoleum and a dog climbing all over the booths. Andreas and I talk while Housemate Mike and the Albanian drink. Oh, and there’s this guy at the other end of the bar who is checking me out. Nice. The streets are quiet as we stumble back to the car for the ride home.

5. cheese wit’ (8/16)

Nick started his new job, so it was just me, Nadine, and Matt to eat our way through Reading Terminal Market. But first, bagels in Rittenhouse Square, where we run into many members of what would appear to be Nadine’s fan club. She’s told me that since moving to Philly in May that she’s had quite a number of men of varying ages, colors, shapes, and sizes totally chat her up as she goes about her business. None of this silliness at the market, as we had produce and pasta to buy for dinner. Sunflowers for Nick for his first day at his new job, gerbera daisies for Andreas and Housemate Mike, who were expecting us for dinner that night.

But after the market, before dinner (and a long walk through the rain to dinner), a stop in South Philadelphia for cheesesteaks. Matt and I had been looking forward to this all day. I know that we could have gone fancy and splurged on the $100 cheesesteak (Kobe beef, lobster, black truffle shavings, expensive French cheese) at Barclay Prime but why bother when $6 and change will get you a cheese wit’ (that’s cheesesteak with grilled onions — the cheese in question is usually Cheez-Whiz) at Geno’s or Pat’s?

Geno’s is the orange place with the display cases full of patches from police departments around the world. Flyers calling Mumia Abu-Jamal a murderer. Separate windows for ordering cheesesteaks and beverages. Pat’s is the white stand, with a huge menu and a treatise, if you will, on how to order a sandwich (http://www.patskingofsteaks.com/order.htm). Oh, and I still can’t say which steak I liked better. I guess that means I’ll have to go back soon and eat some more.

Dinner that night: it was nice. Andreas and Housemate Mike live in a charming rowhouse on a street named after a “Peanuts” character. I think I managed to behave myself. That is, when I wasn’t beating heavy cream into butter instead of whipping it for dessert. Or sneaking a cigarette in the backyard, crowded
under a mildewy patio umbrella with the smokers. I was accused of making faces, an accusation I refute on account of the fact that I would never do something silly like make faces. No. Not me. Mike the Housemate made a roast and mashed potatoes. Tim the Houseguest made spinach. I chopped almonds, tried to chop up a stalk of sugarcane. Andreas made a couscous salad, Olivia brought a green salad in a vidalia onion dressing. And there was a gigantic bottle of wine (or two). As ever, I can’t remember what I talked about very well: whaling. Boys. How hot I looked when I put on lip gloss (NARS Orgasm, in case you were wondering — there’s a matching blush, too). I put on Yves Montand for dinner music. I thought about putting on Andreas’s copy of Metallica’s “…And Justice For All”, but wouldn’t you agree that “Master of Puppets” would work better for a dinner party? During clean-up, Olivia tried to teach me steps from the Lao folk dance she learned over the summer. This was not a success.

At the end of the evening, Nadine and I ended up huddled on a couch, eating dessert and acting like a couple of lovestruck teenagers. Except for Nick (you know, Nadine’s *husband*) and Andreas sitting on the couch opposite us, it was like “Heavenly Creatures” only without the matricide and opera and respiratory illness. On the long walk home, I talked to Nick and Nadine about a lot of deep stuff. I think rain does that to people. Olivia and Matt went out salsa dancing, leaving our lame asses behind so we could go home, watch Comedy Central, and go to bed.

6. goodbye (8/17)

When I wake up the morning, I lie under my blanket and get my bearings. Without my contacts in, and my glasses out of reach, I cannot tell if Matt came home from salsa dancing. I smell coffee, so Nadine must be up but it’s bright enough that Nick must already be at work. I squirm a bit then mutter something about not wanting to get out of bed. And then Matt and Nadine are piled on top of me, smothering me with kisses and begging me to wake up. How could I ever doubt my friends’ love for me when they pull goofy stuff like this?

Had one last tasty lunch with Nadine and Matt at an inexpensive Italian restaurant. Briefly met Matt’s cute-ass friend Emily. Packed bags. Drove Matt to the airport. Was late meeting Andreas for afternoon tea. I feel like I’ve known him for years but I don’t really know anything about him. Clearly, he has the patience to put up with my silly antics, but what about the important stuff? Names of siblings, allergies, favorite Beatle, etc. — that information I have filed away on everybody else. In fact, I was thinking of making up a form for folks to fill out: name, birthday, favorite Beatle, song that was playing the first time you had sex, shoe size. You know, the usual. Andreas walked me home with enough time for me to be sad with Nadine before Olivia came by to drive me to the airport for my flight home.

7. post-script (8/18)

    a. When I got into work, my boss looked at me and said, in almost total shock, “Oh my god, Jasmine, you look fantastic!” I guess I must have been really well-rested from vacation, then. But then I wonder exactly how bad I must have looked before. I couldn’t resist scampering off to inspect my face in the ladies’ room mirror. Hmm. Cheeks were pink. Hair was down, more curly than frizzy. No lip gloss but lips looked healthy. I guess I looked pretty good. Hope it lasts.

    b. I went to see Grace yesterday. Grace cleans my teeth. She could probably also do well as a spokesmodel but I think she’s way too modest (and smart) to while away her twenties prancing about car shows in a bikini. In the six months since I last saw her, she got engaged, then dis-enaged. She’s, like, the third person I know who’s done that this year. Da-amn.


“I will find a substitute for sex. Sex Lite. Sex Helper. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Sex!” (Jeffrey)

Judy Holliday – What’ll I Do; Jeff Buckley – Last Goodbye; Doves – Some Cities; Memphis Bleek – Is That Your Chick (The Lost Verses)

http://www.cartmanthearistocrat.com (turn down your speakers)


~ by Jasmine on August 20, 2005.

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