Saturday, July 11, 2009

So long! Farewell! Auf Weidersehen, Goodbye!

As some of you have pointed out, it's been a while since I last posted. To be honest, I've more or less decided that it's time for me to move on from Crankster. I started this blog when I was hitting my mid-thirties, living in southwest Virginia, and seriously afraid that I was turning into an old man. It was a place to put those worries, talk them out with the world, and generally stop my slow descent into middle age.

In the last three years, a lot has changed. I've moved to a new city and been bombarded with all sorts of new irritations, challenges and experiences. I've done some new jobs, gotten going as a professional writer, and generally complicated my life in all sorts of bizarre ways. Along the way, my sister has gotten a liver transplant and my daughter has transformed from a baby to a toddler to a little girl. One cat has died, but the other is still thriving; Bagheera remains a daily source of joy and anguish. My wife and I are still chugging along, disturbingly happy with each other, and surprised that our fifth wedding anniversary is coming up.

Over the past three years, I've also met a lot of cool people, many of whom were kind enough to comment on this blog. I've even met some of my favorite writers, like Pickled Olives, the CEO, and Cranky Franky.

Long story short, I'm no longer worried that I'm becoming old or falling into any sort of routine. A large part of this process has been my blog and, through it, my interactions with you. I've been very lucky to have a group of loyal readers who regularly checked in and pushed, prodded, and encouraged me to do new things and go new places. You have helped me to become a better writer and a better thinker, and I owe much of my current writing success to you. I'm sorry for neglecting you over the last few months, but I want you to know that you've been in my thoughts.

I don't want to turn this into some sort of promo for other efforts, so I'm going to hold off on talking about my professional projects; on the other hand, if any of my long-time readers are interested in checking out the websites that I now write for, please drop me a line and I'll send you the urls. In the meantime, I'm working on a new blog, Bruce and Mr. Boston, in which I'm documenting my ongoing attempt to expand my cocktail-making horizons. It's kind of a fun, personal, pet project. If you get a chance, please drop in.

Again, thank you for everything!


Friday, July 10, 2009

Mister Smith's, Rest in Peace

As I was clearing out my blog, I came across this old post. I think I held off on running it because I wanted to tell a much longer story. In retrospect, though, I think it gives a good glimpse of the meeting of a few bloggers.

I feel like Lee gets short shrift here, to which I can only say that meeting her, both on this day and on other days since, has been a huge joy. She's a pretty amazing lady.


Being a philosopher, my wife has a lot of pet theories. One of them is that everyone has a superpower. For example, she proudly calls herself "Restating the Obvious Woman" for her ability to...well...restate the obvious. I, on the other hand, am "Sums Everything Up in Ten Words or Less Man."

Some people have really long superhero names. My friend John, for example, might well be Captain "Knows Every Bar in the Greater DC Area, Most of New York, and Significant Portions of Baltimore." All kidding aside, John is a walking encyclopedia of urban watering holes, and not only knows the names of pretty much every dive, but can tell you its major attractions, primary clientele, nearby restaurants, drink specials, and various legends and lore. Although John occasionally gets a little "Rain Man" on his favorite topic, he is incredibly handy to have along, and adds excitement to a night on the town.

My knowledge of DC Metropolitan geography is limited to a few key locales, so when I was planning a meeting betwixt Lee, the CEO, and myself, I brilliantly deduced that DC would be the perfect meeting place. After all, the CEO lives in Maryland, Lee lives in Virginia and DC is somewhere between the two. Luckily, the CEO, one of whose superhero names is probably "Has a Way Better Grasp of DC Geography Than Either Crankster or John" Man, was wise enough to suggest Tyson's Corner, which probably shaved twenty minutes off everybody's travel time.

Now that we'd chosen a locale, John's superpower kicked in. He had only the sparsest of information, namely that we wanted a low-key place that was not too expensive and was located in the Tyson's area. Within seconds, his preternatural grasp of the local dives had identified two bars that would perfectly suit our purposes. The first was Mister Smith's, which John described as "the apotheosis of the fern bar." According to John, Mister Smith's was locked in the world of mid-1970's swinger bar culture. For those of us who grew up watching Three's Company, this real-life "Regal Beagle" was hard to pass up. Besides, I'd been to this one before and had really enjoyed it.

The second joint, simply named "Pub," also sounded pretty wild. It was an English-style pub with dart lanes and pool, attached to "a pretty good Chinese restaurant," and was "a hangout for CIA types." I ran these options by Lee and the CEO. Both of them, oddly enough, had been to Mister Smith's before, which made it the ideal choice. We agreed to meet there at 5PM.

John and I rushed to make it to the strip mall in time for the meeting. However, as we drove past the storefronts, we realized that something was wrong. Mister Smith's was no more. Bemoaning "the end of an era," and wailing "that it shall never be forgotten," I decided to hang out near the now-defunct Mister Smith's and try to find Lee.

Now, while I'd read Lee's posts for months at this point, I had only the slightest idea about what she looked like. For this reason, I was eyeballing every asian woman who could possibly be an artist. Aimless, staring at random women, and wearing a huge black overcoat, I have no doubt that I looked like a cross between Silent Bob and a molester. After a few minutes, I noticed a slim asian woman in a red jacket. She seemed confused, as if she was looking for someone. She seemed surprised, as if she was angry at Mister Smith's for closing. She wandered into Starbucks. I followed.

Keeping a discreet distance, as I didn't want to bug her if she wasn't Lee, I got in line a few spaces behind her. She pulled out her cell phone and pushed a few buttons. My phone rang.

"Hi, Crankster! This is Lee!"
Smiling, I neared the woman two spaces ahead of me in line. "Hi, Lee. Are you wearing a red jacket?"
Lee sounded confused. "No, I'm not there yet."

The woman in line chose this point to turn around as the bald guy in the Uncle Fester toggle coat stopped walking towards her, flashed an embarassed smile, and shuffled out of Starbucks. Blushing madly, I gave Lee all the key information about Mister Smiths and we agreed to meet at the coffee shop. Hopefully red coat lady would be gone by the time Lee showed up.

She arrived a few minutes later, and we decided to go to Clyde's. I was excited because I'd never been to the Tyson's Corner Clyde's, but had seen it in Best Friends, a Goldie Hawn/Burt Reynolds movie from the early 1980's. Lee, I think, was ambivalent, and John was somewhat disappointed, as he had worked at this Clyde's, and had no real desire to go back. However, given that the CEO was en route, we decided that simplicity was ideal, as we didn't want him wandering down various back streets looking for the elusive "Pub."

We staked out territory in the bar area and admired the beautiful carved wood and stained glass. We'd barely gotten our drinks before the CEO arrived with his wife and we got down to some serious talking. It would be about four hours before we left and, to be honest, we probably could have gone for four hours more. John and the CEO's wife were both very kind, putting up with the meandering geekiness of the bloggers.

Rather than attempt any sort of transcript, which would be hopeless, I'll try to tell you about the two wonderful bloggers I spent the evening talking to. The CEO looks like a character out of The Godfather, the kind of guy who would throw Luca Brasi over his knee for talking out of turn, or maybe Clemenza's playful younger brother. True to his online persona, he is immensely playful, caring, and interested in people. As the evening went on, I would sometimes catch him looking at all of us. He would disengage from the conversation, watching it continue around him, pleased with the idea that he'd brought this meeting into being.

Since that day, I've noticed that Monty's blog does the same thing. This guy is a professional appreciator, and one of his greatest pleasures is passing on his favorite things. He loves to watch the people he cares about as they enjoy the things that he's brought to them.

And, while Monty was watching us, his wife was watching him. Alternately challenging and extremely caring, it is clear that the two of them are deeply in love. I can only hope that my marriage lasts as long, and is as filled with love, as theirs is.

Better Crackhomes and Gardens

This is another old post that I came across. It highlights some of the burned out places in my neighborhood. Since we moved in, however, all of these old houses have been demolished, leaving behind vacant lots.