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2006-03-03 - 1:29 p.m.

Socially, I go through spurts. If I'm single, I'll spend a week or ten days in a row pretty much by myself, going out for coffee or walks or photo walks or to bookstores, where I continue to drink entirely too much coffee because it's there and it's got a drug in it and I like to have something in my hands. I still spend a lot of time by myself even when I'm not single. The periods of alone time are shorter, for sure, but I go through spurts. I'm in the middle of the opposite now. That was a long-winded way of saying that I'm going out a lot and that this weekend is full of more going out.

I can't handle hangovers like I used to and so today, around 10 in the morning, I drove my truck to the parking lot of a low-slung, one-story suburban office building of the American type (could be a giant doctor's office or a call center for an insurance company or international headquarters of a midget porn syndicate) and I took a nap. Bench seats are great. Having a random pair of jeans in the truck is great. I rolled the jeans up and so I had a pillow. I didn't really fall asleep but came close and I spent a half-hour like that and it was fantastic. I came back and had a meeting at 11. Before I went into the conference room, I checked my hair and things in the mirror, did the straightening business, microwaved the half of a cup of coffee I'd bought on the way in today and, man, I was good.

I've been enjoying the girlfriend's company more and more. We're getting used to each other and comfortable and all those warm things are happening. We're going to a guy's 50th birthday party tonight. She knows him from somewhere and he's a crazy musician. He makes his own instruments and plays jazz-type sets, that sort of thing. Anyway, guests bring a "piece of music you can't live without," and I think they'll play it and probably do some sort of art project with photos or something. But when the girl described it to me, she called it a "record party" and so I started thinking of what record I'd bring and I'm pretty sure it'll be good seventies funk. Speaking of which, I'd really like to own copies of all those blaxploitation soundtracks. Curtis Mayfield! And hanging out with my college friends on Saturday, in their warm and softly lit suburban house and then apparently we're going to an Academy Awards party on Sunday, which I Do Not Want To Attend But Which I Must Because The People Throwing It Got My Girlfriend And Me Into A Really Funny Stand-Up Show For Free. I've been trying the caps thing for a while, and I think that one there went on for Entirely Too Long.

And of the way I look, apparently:

I'm bearded right now. The warehouse is mad cold and we played frisbee golf last Saturday and have plans for golf tomorrow and a bearded face is surprisingly beneficial for activities like this. Beards are one of those body features that one day you realize that this thing does have its purpose for the well-being of man and then you sort of get a kick out of recognizing that and to pay homage, you don't shave it for a while. It was touch and go at the office for a few days, but now it looks a little better. And I'm wearing a sweater today with a sort of half turtleneck (mock neck, maybe?) and wearing jeans and the New Balance sneakers with the gel-style inserts that make me feel like my feet are taking naps on mattresses. With the glasses and the overall Slender Style that I've got, I don't know, I think I may look coffee shop, bookish style. I'd say if fourteen thousand people looked at me and had to guess my deal, the most common response would be high school history teacher. Or maybe librarian. Are there any male high school librarians? In any event, what people don't see is that after I've been playing for a few weeks, I've got a nice jump shot. In addition, they can't see that I'm probably beat boxing in my head. Not full-on, spit-and-fury beat boxing, but usually a variation on Rob Base and DJ Easy Rock's "It Takes Two."

Right. So I got hit on last night at Friends, and in such an aggressive way that I don't know if she was fucking with me or what. Forward! We were playing three ball in the back room, which is pretty separate from the rest of the bar. My girlfriend was in the main room, with a table full of friends, drinking and welcoming Kevin and Kerry back from a trip to Mexico. There were four of us playing three ball when the cigarette girl came back. I'd never seen this particular cigarette girl before. Usually they're European of some sort and cute and probably headed for Ph.D.s at Hopkins. This girl was half Asian, I think, and pretty. Kevin is always pretty crude with these cigarette girls and most of them seem to like it all right or at least humor him when he asks them. They're outgoing personalities in general and usually strike up conversations. So Kevin goes first, giving the girl his license and he gives her a hard time because they only give out one free pack now instead of two. So she ribs him back a little and makes fun of his driver's license picture. And what happened next makes me feel a little foolish, for some reason.

I gave her my license. She scanned it into her magic little hand-held machine.
"You're looking pretty cute in this picture," she said.
"Yeah, it was a good hair day," I said, peeking around the corner to see what my girlfriend was doing. She was telling a story to three friends, gesturing with a lit cigarette.
The cigarette girl handed me back my license, but instead of putting it my hand, she lighly poked my shirt with it. "You have the word 'thesaurus' on your shirt. What's that all about?"
The T-shirt underneath the button-down did bear the word "thesaurus." My girlfriend bought it for me from a web site. I undid two more buttons on the button-down.
"A thesaurus is not a giant lizard," she read aloud. "I was going to say, I was hoping 'thesaurus' isn't what you call your dick."
I looked at my friend Kevin, who had not been paying attention to this conversation, but perked up when he heard the word, "dick." He made a whistling noise and then went back to setting up his shot.
The cigarette girl smiled at me. I didn't know what to say, so I said, "No, his name's James. He's English," and she actually laughed at that.
And fifteen minutes later, after the cigarette girl had canvassed the bar, doling out her free cigarettes, she came back to the pool room, ducked her head in the doorway, looked me right in the eye, and said, "I have to leave now but I just wanted to thank you for being so hot."

On Wednesday, I mailed a letter to Tobias Wolff, saying enclosed is something I wrote and now you want to read my whole manusript, right? Yesterday, I sent letters to Edward Hoagland, an essayist I'm reading right now, and to David Sedaris. They have no chance of working, but I figured it would be worth the thirty-nine cents and it would make for a funny thing to say at the bar last night, which it did. Writing letters is certainly easier than actually writing, but making contacts are nice and if nothing else if I ever see these guys read or anything, I can say I was the guy who sent you the story about stuttering (Sedaris and Hoagland were both stutter guys and I just like Tobias Wolff and he also looks approachable in his publicity shots, sort of like a happy, drunk auto mechanic).

So, yes, my birthday's soon and I'm looking forward to going fishing with my dad and older brother, first week of April, I hope. Who wouldn't want to spend time in the Smoke Hole Caverns? That stretch of the south branch of the Potomac is known for its golden trout, which look like shimmery apparitions when they come up to the surface.

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