Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Boiling Points

Shortly after I got to Washington, DC last Wednesday, a friend of mine texted me (I swear I must have a homing device implanted somewhere on my person) to invite me for St. Patrick’s Day drinks.
Now, I’m about as far from Irish as they come – plus, my people don’t get to march in the parade (you want to burn a bridge with the gays, leave them out of a parade – we love a parade; any forum where people line up on street corners to watch us prance by is going to appeal to a group of people largely identified by body image issues, fashion sense, and vanity.) Yet, I love to drink, so off to Paddy O’Tam’O’Shanter’s Faux Irish Pub (not its real name. It was some fake-O Irish pub between the Verizon Center and a Chipotle. But they had liquor.)
Oh, and contributing to the feeling that I’m being watched or tracked, half an hour after getting there, our CEO called me wanting to know where “everyone’s going.” Seriously, the best thing about this job is that I’ve attained a level of popularity that’s eluded me all my life. I truly have no idea what I’m going to do if I have to replace my feelings of inadequacy with actual self-esteem.
Anyway (I swear this story has a point), while we’re at Leprechaun Liquor Bar, there’s this guy who looks familiar in that way we’re you’re not sure if it’s someone from your past, or someone mildly famous – that weird Recognition Purgatory where you have to actively try and parse all the places you’ve ever lived, the people you went to high school and college with, and the TV shows you watch until you figure it out.
Then you realize how sad your life is because the person you’re staring at (who is now realizes you’re staring and may drag you outside and beat you up) is the guy who finished in sixth place during the most recent season of Top Chef (which has been off the air for a really long time. When is it coming back? Padma, why have you forsaken me? And who is your baby’s daddy? Am I the only one dying to find out who the little samosa’s pappadum is?)
If you’re a fan of Top Chef – and, really, how could you not be – you’ll remember the rather outspoken and arrogant Mike Isabella, he of the Mediterranean cooking and superterranean ego. So you can imagine my amusement – shortly after loudly and publicly identifying him, complete with pointing (I was drinking scotch – not a safe choice) – when he started hitting on one of our co-workers - who was not welcoming the attention. (This is the point in the story where I feebly attempt to avoid telling you (and fail) that he also spent half the night in the bathroom blowing coke up his nose.)
So, of course we had to go to his restaurant the next night – just for laughs (and whatever free food and liquor unrequited lust gets you.) Mike – I don’t know that you’ve got much game, but you make a mean hummus.
Still, it was the highlight of a week that included a trip to Denver – just for lunch (The Yard House is a chain, but it’s a pretty good chain. My turkey burger was the best I’ve had outside of Cafeteria at 17th and Seventh Ave.) Denver was followed by Lincoln where I consumed the largest steak I’ve ever eaten (Misty’s) and a bowl of Tortilla Soup at the Lincoln airport which was both misguided and a misnomer (Garbage Stew would have been more accurate – it appeared to contain every leftover scrap of meat and canned vegetable they had. Note to self: avoid menu items that are likely excuses for consolidating the week’s leftovers.)
You can imagine my relief in finally returning home after five days, and one hangover, on the road – and New York didn’t disappoint. 75 and sunny on Saturday, it was the nicest weather we’d seen since October – and a great way for my sister to celebrate her birthday on Sunday.
Did you know she has the same birthday as Rosie O’Donnell? When Rosie used to have her daytime talk show, her March 21 show was always made up of an audience who also had that birthday. My sister got to go once and got a pile of cool takeaways. I bet she’s jazzed that Rosie’s returning to daytime.
That’s right – did you hear that Rosie’s getting a daytime talk show after Oprah leaves the airwaves in 2011? Rosie, Ellen – is there a new rule that you have to be a lesbian to get a daytime talk show? (Though, if some of those Oprah rumors are true, maybe it’s not a “new” rule.) Is that why I can’t get my own show? What’s next? The Suze Orman Show? “Motorcycle Road Trip” with Meredith Baxter?
Maybe if I take up field hockey and bring in The Indigo Girls as my house band I can get a show?
I should stop stereotyping. I mean, it would be like someone saying that the only kind of show I could host would be about trendy places to go, celebrity gossip, and bitchy comments about physical appearances.
Which is – of course – exactly what I do. (This is where I remember to advise my readers that the tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day is something they should reconsider on a case-by-case basis. Half the people who attempt this don’t have the skin tone for it, and generally wind up looking like they’ve eaten questionable shellfish. The remainder run the risk of looking like they travel by broomstick with a flock of flying monkeys behind them.)
But what really boiled this week wasn’t the kitchen at Zaytinya, wasn’t the soup in Lincoln, and wasn’t an overflow of bad lesser-holiday fashion. It wasn’t even jealousy over not having my own show (well, maybe a little.) It was boiling tempers over the final leg of the health insurance reform bill (now LAW. Suck it, Republicans!)
OK. I’ve written so much about this that we don’t need to get into the substance of the bill. We don’t need to argue its merits. We don’t need to chew over the parliamentary tactics.
But we do need to discuss appropriate behavior.
I was raised to believe that you respect public officials. That the President occupies an office worthy of deference and respect – and regardless of what you think of the man, you respect the office. Members of Congress may be (and often are) preening, self-absorbed boobs. But you respect the office.
So it was horrifying – truly unbelievable – to turn on my television to see Americans denigrate the tradition of peaceful protest and devolve from people exercising their first Amendment rights and into a mob befitting a Disney cartoon (where were the torches and pitchforks?) Calling members of Congress “Nigger” and “Faggot” and “Baby-killer”?
Are you kidding me?
I’ve got to believe there’s a clause somewhere in the unwritten social contract that talks about not spitting on each other.
The sad thing is – it was bound to happen. There was no way we could elect an African-American (or a woman, or whomever the first “minority” President was going to be) without ultimately generating a backlash. The good feelings over what we’d done were always bound to be followed by a late-breaking re-ignition of the Culture Wars; they never really went away. And so we claim to argue over the merits of Health Insurance Reform or Consumer Protection or (and get ready for this one, folks) Immigration. But the subtext is always about race, or gender, or class.
Because in a world where blacks and gays and women can achieve equality on the merits of their work (which often has to far exceed that of a white male peer group in order to deemed “equivalent”) there will always be people who feel marginalized and threatened by it.

Which is a shame. After all, if you can embrace it you’ll realize that this law helps you too; that now no insurance company can take away your insurance if you get sick.

And you can recuperate watching those amusing lesbian talk shows.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - you work with some really strange and stalker-ish people. However, I'll have you know that field hockey is cool for those of all sexual preferences (yes, maybe I have two sticks in my closet - and that's not a euphemism). And no matter how much tempers boil, this health care bill is a big f-ing deal for us all (especially for our Veep). Here's to many more nights of comped hummus.