Good help is so hard to find...

Ms. Patricia Harrison
President and CEO
Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Dear Ms. Harrison:

As you know, in today's political environment, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has come under fire. PBS has been criticized as unfair and lacking balance, typically by conservatives. Indeed, this past year has seen efforts to eliminate funding for PBS as a result of the content of its broadcasting. However, a bipartisan response ensured that PBS will continue to offer quality investigative programming, excellent documentaries, and insightful news programming.

I have been a loyal PBS viewer for some time. I often tell friends about the variety of programs I enjoy on PBS. From the intellectual diversity of Nova, to the varying perspectives of POV, to the thorough investigative reporting of Frontline, I remain a dedicated PBS viewer. And when I hear criticism of how television serves no purpose other than instant communication of news, I cite PBS as evidence of how wrong that criticism is.

It is with this background that I ask you about the following. This evening, I sat down to watch what I hoped would be an interesting documentary program, Elusive Peace, a two-and-a-half hour analysis of the Middle East peace process. After the first forty-five minutes drew me into the program (although I would point out some factual omissions in the program, but we'll save that letter for another day), your PBS station interrupted the program and put on an episode of Antiques Roadshow already in progress. Do you have any idea how mentally scaring it is to instantly go from shuttle diplomacy to the price of an 18th century highboy?

Being the second time this problem has occurred, I felt the need to inform you of it. Don't get me wrong, I realize that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is on a limited governmentally supplemented budget, but I must ask, how hard is it to find someone who can put the tape into the machine and press "play" while also looking at a monitor to make sure they are not interrupting another program? When I was in elementary school, there was a kid who ate glue while operating a projector. If you would like his name, I think he might still be available.

So, Ms. Harrison, it is hard enough for PBS to gain viewership. Please don't dissuade more people from tuning in. By the grace of all that is Jim Leher, please, please, please encourage your stations to hire A/V people who know what they are doing.


Blundering American


And by popular (okay, singular) demand...

A good friend and blog mentor (what exactly is that? blogentor? mentog?) aptly recognized here that blogs are like peep shows. You get to see a little story of someone else's life. However, while the writer often reveals thoughts and experiences that he or she may not tell people personally, they often retain the story in its entirety for themselves. Until I began this little endeavor, I don't think I recognized the truth behind that observation. Now I do.

After I posted this, my friend, S____, commented about the "Dentistry Wedding." Evidently, one reason was because he was able to break the not-so-subtle-first-letter code of names and determine about whom I was writing. He then asked me for more stories from that evening and, I must admit, there were plenty. Typically, I probably would resist the temptation to revisit an event for a number of reasons, but in this case I tend to agree with S___. There were some other experiences that are worth mentioning, such as:

-When I was walking from the ceremony to the elevator to go to the cocktail party, two dentists behind me began discussing how easy it was to fleece the system that I prosecute people for fleecing. After they both all-but-admitted to criminal activity, I turned around, introduced myself using my official title and suggested that they may want to discuss their fraudulent activities in a somewhat more private environment. They introduced themselves and Jon Smith and Joe Smith and promptly excused themselves. I was tempted to ask for their professional identification numbers, but that would have been so unsporting.

-At the cocktail party, S___ tried to convince me that, despite the copious amounts of alcohol that he had consumed, he "reeeaaalllyyy wuuzznn'tt thaaaat drrruunnkk" because his stupor was psychologically induced.

-S___ then attempted to further justify his inebriated state by pointing out how his wife, M____, had been "ssssooooo" drunk at B___ and J____'s wedding that she engaged in a tear-included chorus of That's What Friends Are For the weekend before. When I asked if M____ took the microphone to ensure that she was heard by all who attended the wedding, M____ assured me she had not. S____ later indicated that, it wouldn't have mattered because, microphone or not, everyone at the wedding saw M____'s drunken accompaniment of Dionne Warwick. Perhaps a call to Dionne and her Psychic Friends Network could have avoided that scene (I was tempted to provide a link, but just couldn't justify it to myself).

-When I indicated to S___ that his wife's previous drunken state did not explain his, S___ indicated that he only drinks like this when he is at a wedding. I then asked the all-important question, "And how many weddings have you been to lately?" S____'s response, "About one each week."

-I spent time on the dance floor with H___ and R____ who thoroughly impressed me with their ability to cut a rug on the dance floor. Recognizing my surprise, A___ told me I shouldn't be too impressed, because when H___ and R____ were engaged to be married, they took dance lessons so that people would have my exact reaction. Even with that caveat, I was still impressed.

-I was also impressed that one of my friends hit the dance floor, because I had never seen him do so. When he got onto the dance floor, I finally understood why.

-After refusing to take part in picking the bride up on a chair during the Hora for fear of dropping her, I watched as four other guys tried to pick her up, only to drop her. Who knew that a dentist would have such catlike reflexes in a wedding gown?

-Newlywed, J____, proposed to me because her new husband, B____, could not be found at the time. Apparently, she thought I was the best of what was available. In case you're wondering, the room was pretty much empty at that point.

-Witnessing (although, thankfully, not directly) the groom's brother taking a bubble bath in the post-wedding hospitality suite.

Of course, there were other events as well, but may of them would require a painfully detailed introduction about how many of my friends and I were politicos at our alma mater. Recognizing how excruciating non-politicos find that type of discussion, I'll just leave those stories out and spare you from a detailed rendition of university politics.

There was one other story that doesn't require such background information. One that I initially hesitated to write. But in considering exactly how to approach this post, I figured the catharsis would be worthwhile.

My friend, A____, has taken it upon herself as a personal mission to find me a girlfriend. However, recognizing the importance of finding someone of a similar background, A____ has been searching for a girl that she has dubbed as "100% Kosher." I'm not exactly getting fantastic results on my own, so I've become a willing participant in this little endeavor of A___ playing shadchen (Yiddish, transl. "matchmaker").

Some time ago, A____ suggested that I meet her friend, C___. (No. C___ is not C___ from this post.) After A___ has talked C___ up for some time, I ended up meeting her on my own. I approached her, we talked a bit on a few occasions, and eventually I asked if she wanted to grab lunch sometime. C___ was visibly taken aback (which even I recognize is a bad sign), but gave me her email address. I emailed. She tersely responded. I replied. She responded again. But what was lacking in these messages was any reciprocal interest.

Let me explain what I mean by that statement. I don't expect women to throw themselves at me (although, I must admit, the thought has some appeal). It's just not the way the little dance works. However, I have come to expect that if someone is interested in knowing something about me that when I ask that person questions about themselves, they answer and then ask some questions about me. When someone only answers my questions, but asks me nothing in return, I take it as, "Thanks for coming on the show. We have some lovely consolation prizes."

Well, that was the situation here. I got the message. Loud and clear. And I never pursued anything further. I'd always attempt to be polite though. Say hello. Talk to C___ when no one else was. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that the situation was a little embarrassing for me. And running into C___ wasn't exactly something I looked forward to for that reason.

After I invited A___ to the dentist wedding, she told me how excited she was to see C___, who would also be in attendance. I, however, was less than thrilled.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against C___ at all. And it's not like I haven't been rejected before. I mean, please, I've gotten to the point that I admire the technique. But for some reason, since I approached C___ it has been awkward and, well, as much as I hate this word in this circumstance, weird. I have an inability to speak to her and, even when I do, she's, whether intentionally or not, rather cold with me. Ultimately, I've resigned myself to "It is what it is."

When we arrived at the wedding cocktail party and reception, it was what it was. As expected, I told C___ "hello," to receive a "hi" in return. While I pretty much knew the program, the limited efforts that I took to strike up any conversation went unreciprocated. So, in that regard, the evening was pretty much status quo.

The reason this whole little ordeal bothers me though, really doesn't have anything to do with C___. That seems to be the only part of the circumstances that I'm comfortable with. As I said before, "it is what it is." What bothers me is how, despite being at an event with so many of my friends and watching two of my friends get married, I felt so isolated.

Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with B____ and J____, and H____ and R____, and B____ and his girlfriend, and most certainly with M____ and S____. They make me feel funny and fun and, most importantly, wanted. And I was so happy for the groom when I spoke to him and all he could do was rave about his beautiful bride.

But when I looked around and realized I was the "single one" among so many married friends, it was a bit depressing. In so many ways, my life is the antithesis of theirs. To put it bluntly, while they've found their one and only good night kiss, I'm still just setting the alarm and going to bed.
And that, I think, is what bothered me about the situation. It predisposed me to look around the room with this jaded view. And once I did, I realized, no matter how many people are in the room, right now, there's one very important one, that I have yet to meet, who is absent. That unique and special one. My one and only good night kiss.


Two dentists and two rabbis were standing under a chupa...*

Last week I went to the wedding of a friend of mine. He's a dentist. He married a dentist. So a prerequisite to going to this wedding was having good teeth. The wedding was black tie and, rather than throw away money on a rental tuxedo, I finally resigned myself to purchasing one and having it for any future formal occassions I may have. And I must say, it's a damn nice tux.

My invitation also included my name "and Guest." so rather find someone in whom I had romantic interest who would actually be willing to be seen in public with me, I called my friend, A____, who indicated that she was not invited, but who was friends with everyone there. So, I invited her as my date, she accepted and we were ready for a fabulous formal evening on the town.

Because the wedding was on the other side of the state, I was staying at my parents house. A____ showed up at around 5:15 or so, and we spent time talking to my parents. In case you're wondering, my parents are totally friend-compatible, so that presented no issues. However, the wedding, which was scheduled at 6:45, was quickly approaching. Nevertheless, A___ and I did not want to be the first people at the wedding, so we decided to burn some time by watching our alma mater kick the crap out of whoever they were playing that week.

When we got to the hotel, we couldn't find anyone we knew. We approached the room we were supposed to enter and the doors were closed. A___ and I looked to the right, and there was the bride, getting ready to walk down the aisle. Apparently, A____ and I misjudged the time it would take for us to get there. And our fashionably late, became a horribly unfashionably tacky interruption.

Nevertheless, we persisted to open the door, and everyone in the audience looked at us as we realized that the door was not oriented so we could enter the back of the room, but rather at the side of the room. I looked at A___ and A___ looked at me and the only thing I could think to say was, "Go ahead."

So A____ walked in (looking fabulous in her fire engine red dress), and made a b-line for the back; I followed immediately behind her (Who would blame me for following a hot blonde in a red dress?). We looked around for a few seconds and realized something. Something petrifying. Sometime that you never want to realize when you are late to a wedding. No seats.

Yes, apparently there were only the exact number of seats that there were guests and, because A____ and I showed up late, the two seats that we were supposed to sit in were now hidden amongst the morass of people watching the front of the room (with the exception of those who were looking at us in the back of the room). As the panic of standing uncomfortably in the back of the room set in, I looked for someone, anyone, to help us. I turned my head to the left and saw two familiar faces. My friend, M____, and her husband, S_____, were gesturing to A____ and I and wording quietly, "Stay there! Don't move!"

Taking M____ and S___'s suggestion, A___ and I froze like deer in headlights, doing our best to blend into the drapes. Although A____'s red dress looked fabulous on her, it made our efforts to make ourselves inconspicuous a bit of a challenge. Basically, it was like trying to hide Shaquille O'Neal at a dwarf convention, or trying to hide Courtney Love....well....anywhere.

Then everyone stood. The bride came out and walked down the aisle, I was thanking all that was holy that when everyone looked at the back, it wasn't just us standing. After the bride made her way to the chupa, everyone sat down and A___ and I reengaged in the drape-hiding activity that was previously so unsuccessful.

After the bride walked down the aisle, the wedding planner/hotel manager/quasi-authority figure approached A____ and I and whispered, "If you walk to the front there are seats up there." Okay, let me get this straight. You just saw us make the embarassing walk-of-shame in to the ceremony within thirty seconds of the bride walking down the aisle. We're standing in the back pretending we are badly designed window dressings and you want us to walk to the front of the wedding, looking for seats? Hmm, let me think about that...yeah, no fucking way.

"Can you get us something back here?," I whispered hoping this woman would take pity on us and retrieve us chairs, but it didn't matter. Wedding planner/hotel manager/quasi-authority figure had walked away. Apparently she was more interested in telling us what to do than actually helping us avoid the obviously embarassing situation. I turned to A___ and said, "I don't know about you, but I'm thinking we stay back here and call as little attention to ourselves as possible. I'm not walking to the front." A____ seemed to be working out of the same playbook: "Damn right."

So A___ and I stood in the back, with unobstructed views of the lovely ceremony, watching two of our friends tie the knot under a chupah brought together by teeth. We saw our friend looking quite dapper and his new bride looking as lovely as could be. We listened intently to their two rabbis as they spoke throughout the ceremony. And when it was done, we blended in with the crowd as they left.

All in all, it wasn't too bad. But I couldn't help but feel bad for A___. After all, I wasn't wearing heels.

Of course, if I was I'm sure we would have attracted a lot more attention.

*As an inside joke for A___, the alternative title to this story was, Hangin' with the Shiksa in the Red Dress. However, in the interest of keeping the appeal of the post broader (i.e. for the two other people that read what I write), the more universal title appears above.