Sunday, September 09, 2007

the sordid truth: a guest blog

One of our regular commenters, 2AM Somewhere, came out to the Bay Area the other day from his Midwest den and met up with us. I told him in advance that the price of admission was writing about it for my blog (not his blog, MY blog), and he complied. Of course, I edited out the part where he recoiled in horror as he observed the drunken woman clubbing the oddly sober and bitter husband with a bottle of Ketel One, as the little children covered their ears and huddled closer to the television set. Just kidding, just kidding...

Disclaimer: The following account contains elements of fiction, fabrication, absurd exaggeration, and shameless hyperbole, all of which have been added to enhance the levity of the narrative and preserve a modicum of discretion. None of it should be construed as an attempt to obfuscate negative experiences.

So, once it became clear that I would be flying out to the Bay Area for another interview in early September, world famous blogger Drunken Housewife renewed an invitation for me to have dinner with her and her family. Given that both of us place some degree of value on our anonymity, we had to negotiate the terms and conditions of this groundbreaking occurrence.

In exchange for an evening of fine dining and lively chatter, I agreed to write a guest post for her ever so popular media property. I also granted her exclusive right to comment, annotate, and heckle in italics anything I submitted. In exchange, she waived the right to use my likeness in any blog related merchandise, the allaying my fears of crass commercialization in the form of commemorative wine glasses, mouse pads, and so forth.

So, I arrived in SFO Thursday evening, about half an hour late from the O'Hell Airport in the Windy City, wondering if I had outrun my luggage in a mad dash to catch my connecting flight from the Circle City. After breathing a sigh of relief to see my suitcase on the carousel, I proceeded to take a train to downtown, where I would lodge for the evening. I got checked in, and then I set out to make my social call.

Getting to the Drunken-Sober residence is no easy task, for it is nestled somewhere in the steep hills south of downtown. To get there, I was given the following directions:

1. Take a form of public transportation to the end of its line.
2. Find a nearby location with lots and lots of colorful flags and locate a taxi driven by some guy named Vladim.
3. Get in the cab. In the backseat, there should be a blindfold. Don said blindfold and do your best impression of "Don't Leave Me This Way" in a Jimmy Somerville falsetto.

Vladim would then drive me to the undisclosed location and leave me at the door to knock.

I received a call around 8:30 pm, during the later stage of step (1) in the directions above. It was the Drunken Housewife. It was the first time we had spoken by phone, so she wasn't sure she had reached me, and I wasn't sure I had been reached by her. She was calling to make sure that I hadn't gotten lost, stolen, or stressed out. I told her that I was fine and most of the way there, which gave her much relief.

I was greeted at the door with a hug from the Esteemed Hostess and an very energetic Lola. We made our way to the living room, where everyone was gathered around a coffee table. I was introduced to the Sober Husband, Iris über Alles, and Michele, a long time friend and hairdresser to Drunken.

Noting that I was dressed in shorts on a night where temperatures were in the 50s, I was ribbed for looking like the "quintessential tourist". Personally, I wondered what my wife would have thought had I dropped dead or been insured in transit. Me with a floral/leafy pattern polo shirt over in the Castro probably would have left behind a Robert Stack grade unsolved mystery to my family back home.

Because I was running late, they had started eating without me. Not to worry though, Drunken had saved some additional goodies for me, with which she promptly set me up, along with a generous glass of sangria.

What follows a recollection of my dining experiences. In a followup e-mail, I asked Drunken for the official names of the dishes, and she declined to give them to me because she was more interested in learning my impressions of them.

The first item was an Hors d’œuvre, a mixture of shrimp and other finely chopped ingredients, which I think may have included nuts and herbs, served atop a slice of endive. It was a pleasant mixture of flavors with a subtle crunchy texture, and a refreshingly crisp substrate.

The next course was Spanish tortilla, for which both Drunken and Michele sang its praises. For those of you not familiar with this dish, this ain't something you'll find on the Taco Bell menu. Were it a French dish, I'd swear it's origin would have been over a domestic squabble where one spoused wante quiche, and another wanted au gratin (picture the classic Reese's "You've got peanut butter in my chocolate..." standoff with potatoes and egg and in French). It's a mixture of thin sliced potatoes and egg, served with a side of red sauce. The sauce had a bit of a zing to it, making for a tasty accent. I enjoyed it so much, I had to have two helpings.

Then Drunken brought out some roasted cauliflower. As someone who had way too much steamed and boiled cauliflower in his past, I can highly recommend it. The roasted form does not have that limp pulp texture that results from boiling. Drunken had seasoned it with something that had given it a reddish appearance. It was mildly spicy and maybe a little sweet. Maybe some cinnamon or nutmeg? Cayenne? I don't know, but I had plenty of this, too.

For desert, we had homemade chocolate ice cream (or was it frozen custard?), prepared by Drunken and Iris. They noted that the yield was a bit small, so they would have to ration the portions. This rich treat was topped with bits of toffee.

There was plenty of chatter as we all ate... Michele and I learned a little bit about each other, and I talked some about the interviews I had done. She was interested in the one I had done for Broadshoulder Broadsides because it was located in a town where she had lived previously. Drunken and Michele both spoke of their love for Spain, tortilla, and sangria.

There was a discussion of an ex-German boyfriend of Michele's, for whom Drunken's ex-husband had high regards ("He's so good to her", was the prevailing quotation). The ex-boyfriend seemed to be a hopeless creature of habit, doomed to spend his time being non-sociable and sketching things all the time. His dressing habits, they said, also made him something of a guy magnet. Drunken apologized for having veered off into a "chick" conversation. It didn't seem so bad to me, given that the reason we know each other is because of my overanalytical relationship blog.

There was a discussion of the Premature Burn at Burning Man scandal and the perpetrator. Sober asked me if I had heard of the festival. I said that I had been aware of it for several years (I think I may have seen an article about it on Wired's website at one time), but that I had never been involved in anything like it.

Just as there were chick conversations, Sober and I hit it off with various and sundry techie topics. We talked about the magic of the filtering system at his current employer, Doggy-o. To his credit, he did not invoke any references to "iPhone" or "podcast". We talked about the annoyance of no real type safety in scripting languages, like the one they used at his employer. We also discussed the pains and peril of object serialization, which is a topic very much near and dear to my heart (seriously, it is).

We also talked about my past work history at Tungsten Technology and the quirks of the company's president and founder. I gave him some inside information about what the guy's personality is like, and why he wrote his book the way he did.

He asked me what I was truly looking for in a job. I mentioned three things: 1) Challenging and interesting work with a path for professional growth, 2) Good compensation, 3) Stability. Upon further discussion, I realized I wasn't really categorizing (3) properly because I wasn't looking for a job with a company which was stable, instead I was looking for an employer which had a promising vision and the smarts to execute on it properly. My current employer was clearly failing on all points right now.

Both he and Drunken emphasized just how much word-of-mouth networking goes on out in that area, so that a lot of people wind up working somewhere because either a friend, or a friend-of-a-friend
There were kittens a plenty around the table, and there was one cutie which had nestled itself in a nook on a bookshelf.

I got to meet Sideshow Mel, the kitten for whom Drunken had raised funds. For a cat who probably came close to having a "come to the light" experiences only very recently, he certainly was very lively. Later, he would be observed working on a puzzle toy that verified he definitely has eyesight.

After Michele said her good-byes for the evening, I made good on my pledge for the Sideshow Mel fund. I then got a brief tour of the upstairs, where I got to feast my eyes upon the view of the front of their house. You have to kind of look sideways out of the right side of the window to get a glimpse of the downtown, which is truly beautiful (imagine me saying that with Eric Burdon's voice). The view of the lighted houses on the hill is also amazing.

On the way down the stairs, I met Frowsty, the immortal god, who for some reason has chosen to assume the form of a large cat with the deepest, most mesmerising eyes. Had I stared into them much longer, I probably would have fallen into a trance or fainted, falling down the stairs. Even more puzzling is why Frowsty has chosen to make this known first to Iris and Lola. I just hope that the feline didn't lure those young, impressionable girls into some sort of Frowstian pact for this knowledge.

After the tour, I was introduced to the resident Amazon, Zoe. She's a beautiful bird with a pleasant demeanor, but because she is strongly bonded to Sober, I dared not attempt touching her. Drunken and I discussed how Zoe came into their lives and her routines with the family members.

I told her about Lenny, a medium sulfur crested cockatoo we adopted about ten years ago. Lenny came to us with issues aplenty because he had been abused. I explained how we had to find a new owner for him this winter because he and our older daughter were involved in an escalating drama positive feedback loop. I said that the new owner had an Amazon and an African Grey.

Drunken expressed her desire to have an Grey, against which I advised because they can be very neurotic and averse to change. She said that she was jealous that Zoe had picked Sober over her and wanted a bird that favored her. I got a tour of the back yard so that I could see the tree that Zoe gets to play in.

Drunken talked about the guilt she has regarding Zoe's quality of life. They had fostered her through a bird rescue program prior to the arrival of Iris and Lola. As the kids came along, there was less time for Zoe. Nonetheless, there was enough interaction in terms of the "breakfast with the tribe" and a stimulating cage environment to keep Zoe plenty happy. Parrots, when lacking stimulation, resort to either disruptive or self destructive behaviors, and she was doing neither. Drunken rated Zoe's life as a C+, but I think that's probably a bit harsh.

I also got to meet the rats, whose names have escaped my memory. Drunken recounted the saga of their origins from the infamous house of rat squalor. One of the rats has an adventurous streak, climbing out of the cage with nary a fear. I'm sure he has a future as a stunt double in the motion picture industry, but if he wants to get the role of Templeton in a (heaven forbid) sequel to Charlotte's Web, he will have to put on a few pounds. She rated their quality of life a B, but considering that most rats don't enjoy such amenities as these do, I suspect she's not grading on a curve.

Lola was gracious enough to let me commandeer her computer for a few moments so that I could log onto a photo hosting service and show Drunken and Lola pictures of my daughters and Lenny. Drunken and I remained at the table as Lola resumed her surfing, talking about kids, the many educational opportunities out in the Bay Area, and the pains of divorce. Lola showed us what she had been working on, dressing up dolls and furnishing their abodes. I also got a brief survey of the culture of Club Penguin.

As midnight drew near, it was time for me to leave. Both Sober and Iris had already retired to bed and said their goodnights. [Here is where 2Am lived up to his nomme du blog: it was 2AM his time, midnight ours, and he was still lively despite having a big day ahead]. So, I started to say my good-byes. We had a brief detour to the hallway, where Druken showed me a collage she had made from many travel documents and other mementos of her far flung travels. Then she showed me some of Iris' works.

I expressed my thanks to Drunken and the rest of the household for an enjoyable evening. I quipped that if I did wind up moving out that way, they would sorta be like a foreign student host family to me. We probably could have talked for another hour out there on the doorstep, but cool night air was starting to get the better of me. So I headed on out.

In all, it was a wonderful evening, a welcome diversion from the stress of the past couple of weeks. It certainly made me feel more at home than those "Gavin Newsom welcomes you to San Francisco" billboards at the SFO baggage claim carousels. If you ever get an invitation for visit, I recommend that you go.


hughman said...

just as i pictured it. but with maybe more drinking and more giggling. but that's just me.

Missy said...

You know, this just makes all of us want to jump on a plane, a train, and a taxi, and show up at the Drunken Housewife's door expecting dinner and entertainment.

Although I hate to confess, I've always read it as Two Am Somewhere, with Am as a form of to be. You am somewhere, I am somewhere, two am somewhere.

KJ said...

Isn't 2am a sweetie?? But I'm truly envious....all I ever get is early morning coffee! ~pouts then winks~

I'm thrilled you all had a wonderful time.

Freewheel said...

Great report!

the Drunken Housewife said...

Well, if you were here, Hughman, I think we'd do a lot more giggling. Missy, you must come one of these days!

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