Archive for August 2010

Don’t get too comfortable

Jumbo Slice

Size, as it turns out, does matter.

I just got home from Washington, D.C., where I spent the weekend to attend the bachelor party of a close friend and former colleague. We had ridiculous amounts of fun. I caught up with old friends and made new ones — all of them smart, creative, amibitious and, without exception, wonderful human beings.

I joked yesterday that when I met the groom-to-be about eight years ago, he was “a broken man.” But it wasn’t really a joke. He was miserable then, almost completely lost at sea, with nothing to buoy him but a nagging sense that things had to get better.

Within a year, he took a leap of faith and moved to the capital to take a demanding but potentially rewarding job that he wasn’t fully confident he was cut out for. “I feel like an impostor,” he told me in the early weeks of his new gig. But he stuck with it, because if nothing else it was challenging. It was interesting. Mainly, it was different.

Since then? His professional trajectory has been nothing short of meteoric. He has risen with distinction to the very top of his profession. Today he’s an extremely influential man in arguably the most influential city in the world. And, oh yeah: Next weekend, he’ll be married to an impossibly wonderful woman who makes him happier than I’ve ever seen him.

In the wee hours of Saturday night, we were riding home in a cab down 18th street in Adams Morgan when another friend spotted a neon sign that beckoned to him like a siren.

“Jumbo Slice,” it said.

“Stop the car! Let us out here!” he cried, and the driver obeyed. The rest of us were too drunk or half-asleep to question it.

So next thing I know, we’re stumbling through a crowd of drunks toward the promise of gooey cheese and pepperoni and grease running down our arms on a scale that is at least somewhat more “jumbo” than we’re accustomed to.

I’m happy to report the neon sign did not lie.

You don’t really get a sense for it in the photo, but these slices were massive, requiring multiple paper plates to (barely) support their bounty. They were the perfect ending to a night that had celebrated excess. And as we walked slowly back toward home, munching on our Jumbo Slices along the way, the groom-to-be drunkenly related the tale of their evolution.

“Originally they were just, you know, merely huge,” he said. “But then the place down the street started making a bigger slice. So these guys started making theirs a little bigger and then the place down the street bought a whole new oven — a bigger one, so they could make even bigger pies. Naturally, this place had to respond in kind, and so now it just keeps escalating. There’s no telling when it will end, really.”

“It’s like a pizzeria arms race,” one of us said. “A Cold War of kitchen equipment,” someone countered. “We can only hope that one or the other side enters a phase of perestroika and the whole thing ends peacefully,” we added, laughing hysterically between bites.

And that’s when it occurred to me: You really need to be around people who challenge you if you’re ever going to get anywhere.

Vagueness and vital organs

I can’t help but laugh every time I hear someone explain a break-up, divorce or  triple-homicide by saying, “Well, apparently Mr. So-And-So had a wandering eye.”

It’s usually older people who were brought up with a heightened sense of propriety, but I’ve heard my younger friends say it, too. “Did you hear they’re splitting up? Yeah, apparently he had a wandering eye.” And then, inevitably, the person they’re talking to cringes a little, because … well, because “wandering eye” implies so much while actually saying so little. Supplied with almost no real information, you’re left with only your imagination to fill in the blanks.

Who did he bang? I’ll bet it was his secretary, the brunette with the pale skin and the legs up to here. I’ll bet they did it on his desk. No, on her desk. Right out there in the lobby between the water cooler and the copy machine. At night, probably, after closing. They probably left the door unlocked just to make it more exciting. Yep, I’ll bet the janitor caught them. Or the security cameras! I’ll bet there’s video of it. It’s probably on the Internet. That’s how she found out. No doubt about it. Hell, I never trusted that guy.

That’s what I imagine other people think about, anyway.

Me? When I hear “wandering eye,” the first thing that invariably pops into my head is an Onion headline from two years ago, which read, “Stuart Scott’s left eye moves to Fox.”

With an amblyopia joke as my launching pad, I’m just a hop, skip and a jump from a fantastic Nikolai Gogol-esque tale about a sentient eyeball who tires of being merely one constituent of a dull, monogamous face, so he dons a dashing overcoat or perhaps a distinguished monocle and embarks on a series of romantic misadventures, gallivanting from club to club with his harlot du jour and cultivating a notorious reputation as a rakish eyeball-about-town.

So when someone says, “Did you hear? They’re splitting up,” I reflexively think, “He just couldn’t keep his eyeball in its socket, could he?” And I snort.

Which, as it turns out, isn’t generally well received as an appropriate response to heartbreak.

Go figure.