Authenticity

Gonna lay some deep shit on you here, so if you’re mostly following my blog for the stories about beat-downs and bitchy waitresses, you might want to skip this one.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my college philosophy class on existentialism. We read some Heidegger and while at the time I couldn’t understand anything he was talking about, lately his concept of “authenticity” has been floating back up into my mind.

I’m not going to go into the philosophy of it (mainly because I forgot or never knew what Heidegger was talking about–I got a C in the class). But basically how I think it applies to talking to strangers is to just “be” in the world. That means never stepping outside of the moment and planning the next move, commenting on the moment I’m in, or reliving some other moment.

Okay, that sounded really douchey. Here’s what I’m talking about. Your phone rings. You answer it. It’s a telemarketer. He doesn’t say “Hi, I’m a telemarketer,” but you instantly know anyway. How? Because the first words out of his mouth sound rehearsed, fake, or just not in the moment. Even if he says, “Hi, may I speak to Fletcher please?” I still can tell it’s someone trying to sell me something and not a friend I don’t recognize.

When I’m trying to start a conversation with a stranger, I desperately try to avoid saying something rehearsed, too clever, or rehashed. No “material.” That means almost everything I say is going to be less clever or interesting than if I just used a previously successful segue, but that’s the only way to keep it real.

So nine out of ten times conversations start with simple innocuous questions that I really want to know the answer to, like, “What’s that?” or “Is that any good?” Once in a blue moon I manage to say something funny right off the bat, but that’s pretty rare. Oddly, not trying to be funny or interesting usually leads to much more funny and interesting conversations. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s mostly about listening.

Anyway, those are my deep thoughts on this Friday morning. If only I were as good at this as I’m making myself out to be.

Animal Shelter Girl

I was walking down Montana on Sunday on the way to meet Paul for lunch when I saw the pet adoption people outside the Whole Foods.

I was early anyway, so I stopped and said hello to the dogs. (I’m not much of a cat person so I mostly talked to the dogs.)

I wasn’t even noticing the actual humans running the adoption. I was really just amusing myself by having a conversation with this one mixed breed dog that looked like a shaggy mutt. “What are you in for?” I asked him. (He was in a cage so it kind of made sense.) “Barking and entering?” (I swear I didn’t think anyone heard me say that.)

This went on for a while where I talked to this dog that I named The Artful Dodger. I was getting into the zone where I didn’t even notice anyone else. But then this girl came up behind me and said, “I think he likes you.”

I turned and saw this cute girl who helps out at the animal shelter. “I’m just making conversation.” She pushed me to adopt him but that isn’t a real possibility. I like dogs but I’m at work all day, I explained.

She seemed disappointed. She gave me the hard sell. I told her I just couldn’t. She said if I change my mind to call her. She gave me a card for the shelter. I said goodbye.

I went and had lunch with Paul at R&D Kitchen. I know what you’re thinking. That during lunch I kept thinking about the animal shelter girl. But the truth is, I kept thinking about The Artful Dodger.

Kicking a Man When He’s Down…

First off, let me just say that I haven’t been in a fist-fight since 8th grade when Neil Jackaway insulted my mother and I hauled off and punched him in the face (that fight was deemed a “draw” by my peers at the time).

But when you hang out with Scott, crazy shit happens.

After reconnecting with him after the whole TV fiasco and seeing him at his party, we made plans to go shoot pool with his friends last night. Charlie was there, as were some other actors who’ve never been in anything I’ve ever heard of.

Anyway, we were minding our own business, having some beers, and shooting pool, when I kept noticing at the table next to us was this asshole trying to pick up these two girls who were clearly not into him. The guy kept saying how they weren’t holding the cue right and he’d offer to show them. The girls were exactly kicking him in the balls, but you could tell them wanted to be left alone.

We all noticed this and were joking about how the guy couldn’t take a hint, when Steve–who was the biggest of Scott’s friends and was in a Carl’s Jr. commercial once–just goes over there and says, “Dude, why don’t you chill out and leave them alone.”

The immediately gets in Steve’s face and says, “Fuck off, douche bag.”

Steve laughs and turns to us, like “Can you believe this guy?” Then he says to the guy, “Asshole, take a hint. They are not interested in your cheesy-ass pick-up lines and Salvation Army clothes, so why don’t you get in your broken-down Camaro and go back to Van Nuys.”

We all laughed. Then the guy grabbed a pool cue and smacked Steve over the head with it. Seriously.

The rest was kind of a blur. We all jumped in there and then out of nowhere all the sudden he’s got friends and we’re all fighting. Some guy punched me in the face. I punched him in the face. Some other guys who were even bigger came in and broke everything up. It was all over in like ten seconds.

The manager kicked us all out and Scott wisely convinced Steve not to start things up again in the parking lot. So we went back to Scott’s place and retold versions of the fight over and over again from each guy’s point of view, and talked about how cool it was kicking those guys’ asses, and how they were all a bunch of pussies, and how if we’d been allowed to fight for longer, they’d have been really sorry.

But mostly I was just thinking about how much my face hurt.

Three Strikes

Lately I’ve felt like I’ve come such a long way being able to talk to strangers that I’ve almost perfected the art.

Such hubris always presages the fall and sure enough I bit it big time Saturday night.

I actually went to a party at Scott’s new place (we’re friends again). I went alone, which would have been really weird a year ago, but now my experience talking to people has made me so much more comfortable going places alone. Anyway, I was having a pretty good time catching up with Scott and meeting some of his friends. Then I decided that it was time to talk to women.

I haven’t spoken to Jennifer since last weekend but in my mind I feel like that is totally over. And though I did have lunch with Michelle on Friday, she’s still seeing that loser, so I felt like I had the green light to try to meet someone new.

I had noticed a cute girl with long blond hair. I waited for her to stop talking to her friend then I went up to her. I said, “Hi. I’m Fletcher.” Usually that’s about as much as I say in these situations. Any more and it seems like a line, or material, or just rehearsed. Not natural = lame. Anyway, she said her name was Kylie.

I asked her how she knew Scott. She said she didn’t, she knew Charlie, that actor guy who hooked up with the waitress from Q’s in the bathroom. Anyway, Kylie and I talked for a while. (Some people have written in asking how these conversation go, or more specifically, how they get started, and that’s about it. Hi. How do you know X? Not very complicated, but that’s what’s so non-threatening about it.)

I had talked to Kylie for about forty minutes when I asked if she’d like to go out some time. She smiles and says, “Sorry, you seem nice, but you’re not my type.” I laughed, “What’s your type?” and she said, “Don’t take it personally. I just usually go for like really good looking guys.”

I stopped smiling. “Oh. Okay, well, nice talking to you.” She actually tried to apologize for how that came out, but I said it was fine. But when I went back to get another drink, I was really upset. What an ego crusher!

I was ruined for the rest of the night. I tried to talk to two other girls but everything came out wrong. Awkward. Desperate. One of them said, “I’m here with someone” thirty seconds into the conversation. The other said, “I’m getting a drink, I’ll be right back,” and never came back.

Now maybe if I were a really good looking guy…

Consultant Woman

A woman was brought through our department yesterday and we were told she was an outside “consultant” who was going to look for ways to restructure our department.

In case you’re just joining us, I work at an investment bank. We deal with bonds, debentures, foreign instruments, that kind of stuff. Not sure how restructuring our department is going to realize any efficiencies but whatever, if she wants to walk around and justify her salary by telling us to move the toaster closer to the bread, then more power to her.

Anyway, towards the end of the day, Janet came to my work station (Janet the consultant, not Janet the tattooed receptionist). She quizzed me about what I do all day long, what deals I’m working on, how long it takes to close a deal, etc. After a while, I started to get nervous. Like maybe restructuring means getting rid of people who write a blog all day long.

So I started to fudge my answers. Make myself seem more indispensable than I really am. I was going on and on about my recent Indian deal when she says, “Okay, great, that’s all I need, thanks.” She turns to leave, but then she stops and turns back, like Columbo.

“Oh, one more thing. What’s ‘Talk to Strangers’?”

I almost shit my pants.

I was like, “Excuse me?”

She says, “You know. Your blog?”

I was so caught off-guard, I just started fumbling like, “Oh, it’s just this thing I do in my spare time and I never do it at work it’s just a hobby a project really and how did you hear about it?”

She said, “I.T. has keylogger software installed on all workstations.”

I swear I immediately flashed back in one second to every inappropriate website and email I’ve ever viewed at work. Before I went into full cardiac arrest though, she said, “Don’t worry. It’s just for insider trading. Don’t do your blog on work time and you’ll be fine.”

And then she left.

Now I know how Winston Smith felt.

Rocker Slut

So I went to hear Jennifer’s band play again Friday night. They sucked worse than before but I put up with it for obvious reasons.

Then, after the show, I went backstage and there was Jennifer making out with some dude.

Needless to say I was pretty stunned. I mean, we’ve only been going out for a few weeks, and it’s not like we’re exclusive or anything, but I did expect that we’d be exclusive on the nights we were on a date!

The oddest and most whack-job thing was her reaction. She did stop making out with the guy, but then she just said, “Oh, hey, this is Rob,” like they were caught in the middle of doing her taxes. (Rob, it turns out, is the bass player, who I later learned Jennifer “sometimes hooks up with.”) I was just so stunned I actually shook his hand.

After I came to my senses, I told Jennifer I was taking off. I drove home planning on never talking to her again. We didn’t talk on Saturday but then she called me on Sunday and said, “What happened to you? Why did you take off like that?” But she did finally show some sense of reality when she added, “Are you mad at me or something?”

I explained that making out with Rob was not cool. At least when we were out together. She laughed it off, “That’s why you’re mad? Please, I was drunk.”

Am I crazy? Okay, maybe they weren’t boning, but still. This chick is nuts, right?

Top Ten List

Top ten reader-submitted responses to the question, “Why is your Lamborghini black with gold sparkles down the middle?”

10. “It matches my shoes.” —PeacePipe21

9. “Three words: Liberace Estate Sale.” –Ken D.

8. “The gold for the side panels was back-ordered.” —Aaron H.

7. “My Bedazzler was broken.” —Sue L.

6. “Winning? Duh.”  —Stephanie S./BigTopGun

5. “What are you talking about? My Lamborghini isn’t gold spark– What the fuck?! Chanterelle!” –MorkOfOrk

4. “It’s for my daughter, Beverly Hills Bitch Barbie.” –NoAmbition

3. “You remember that guy from Top Chef: Just Deserts who put gold glitter on everything? No? Oh. Well, I’m him.” —Rob W.

2. “Advanced radar-scattering paint makes me immune to speed traps.” –CobaltBlue

1. “I have a small penis.” –22 people submitted a variation on this

Thanks for playing. Tonight I am going out with Jennifer to hear her band play again. Wish me luck.

“No one ever noticed me in my solid-colored Lamborghini.”

I was driving down Lincoln Blvd. and spotted this:

I know the picture is pretty crappy (I was driving while shooting) but it’s a gold-sparkled Lamborghini. The sides are black but it’s all glitter from bumper to bumper.

I wanted to talk to the owner so badly. I literally pulled over and went across the street to see if I could find him (and I do mean “him”–trust me, there was an exactly 0% chance the owner was female). I asked the guy at the Hertz place but he said it wasn’t their car and it’s been there all morning. I waited around for a little while but the owner never showed up.

So in lieu of a real conversation, readers please submit what you think this guy might have said if I had asked about the car. I’ll post the best responses later this week.

Gordian Knot

That guy Gordo keeps emailing me asking if there’s any jobs at my bank.

I’m the kind of guy who responds to every email (excluding junk) but these ones I just deleted. Then, last night he calls me on my cell. (Thanks, Gunther!)

I was dreading taking the call, but I figured he’d just keep bothering me, so I answered. I said, “Yeah, hey, I checked around and we’re not hiring.”

But he was like, “Oh, don’t worry about that. That’s not why I’m calling.”

Turns out, he wants to talk to me about a business idea he has. I really, really didn’t want to hear it but guess what? He was calling from Gunther’s place, so before I knew it, he and Gunther were in my place pitching their idea.

The idea is stupid as you might have guessed but I still don’t want to publicly describe it in case some other idiot wants to invest. Suffice to say, it has to tracking devices, Twitter, and a certain item of clothing.

Now that I think about it, I’m fairly certain no one will ever want to pursue this, so let’s just be clear what we’re dealing with: GPS-enabled sneakers that automatically link to your Twitter account. The idea is that you can track celebrities who want to be tracked via Twitter. Not sure why anyone would want to wear these, but if any readers are interested I can pass on your info. They’re looking for $500,000 “seed” money.

This is not an April Fools joke.