I think this video pretty well sums up the residual self image of my generation. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve successfully executed this move on my own in earnest, and can count fewer the number of times that something exploded behind me three seconds later (sorry again about the grill, dad).
There are things that you do as a single man that you know you would never dream of doing if you were in a relationship. The places you go, the condition of your living space, the way you talk about yourself and your current station in life. None of these things are framed quite the same when a man is held accountable to the impressions of another person. The hardest part about being single is living as though you aren’t.
Down on the cubicle farm, things can get pretty homogenous. Matters become blander still if your boss is strict about maintaining a professional atmosphere and regulates your style of desktop bric-a-brac. If pinning up your favorite art or arranging your Halo action figures on your desk is frowned upon, you might try this easy little trick for venting a small bit of your creative vapors.
Start by switching to a clear glass bottle for your daily water intake. I find that a spent Arizona Tea bottle sans the shrink-wrapped labeling works perfectly. Just make a small cut on the edge of that plastic and the labeling tears cleanly off. Next, grab a few rubber bands and put them around the bottle.
Voila, you’ve got yourself a completely modular piece of desk art. Arrange the rubber bands in different ways whenever the mood strikes you. The color scheme will vary depending on what drink you happen to be sipping. Coke makes for a nice contrast to beige rubber bands, though that sticky mess is a little hard to clean out at the end of the day. Just make sure that whatever container you use can be easily cleaned if you’re going to be drinking anything other than water out of it.
As you can see, sketches of zombie hands and portraits of raptors on velocipedes are acceptable décor in my workplace.*
A customer who chooses to take your phone call into the bathroom with him or her is imparting a great deal of trust. Don’t betray that trust by suggesting that you call back. Growl through your discomfort along with them and your relationship will only grow stronger.
If the name of the person you’re about to talk to is foreign and you’re not sure how to pronounce it, just put on an accent of the country you think it’s from. More often than not you’ll get it right and people will be impressed and think you’re well read.
Less often you’ll get it wrong and people will tolerate your ignorance because you’re just another dumb American and there’s no use trying to help you.
Tampa, we need to talk. You’re disappointing me these days. I used to think there was opportunity here. I used to think that you were a city that could have it all. A hip downtown scene that combined the ideal urban landscape against a water-laced backdrop, sunsets, and people with dogs out for walks stopping at every other courtyard bistro just to say “hey, Louise, the brisket smells great; I’ll bring the missus out for a gelato later.”
But no. Tampa, you’re overpriced and spread too thin. I can’t find your soul close enough to where I put mine: down by the water. And even if I could, I’d have to spend twenty minutes trying to park once I got there. Maybe I should go more inland, but it’s too damn humid for such a walk and there’s not enough art along the way for me to be distracted from the vapors.
But the truth is, Tampa, I wanted you to be someone else. Maybe you never will be, and I guess that’s okay. It is unfair of me to ask, but couldn’t you try- just TRY- to be more like St. Petersburg? For me, Tampa?
I was looking to have a nice steak on Saturday night with a half-bottle of a moderately priced red wine somewhere on Central Avenue in St. Pete. Paulina, on the other hand, had a different idea.
“I want to take you to a kava bar,” read her late afternoon text.
“Sounds cool,” I responded. I didn’t have any idea what kava was, but figured it was something holistic (silly) or trendy (insubstantial and expensive).
We arrived at the Bula Kafe on 5th avenue a mile or so west of MLK a little after eight o’clock. The parking lot was very lightly peppered with cars, and though the lot lights were on it looked as if the place may have closed down. The building must have once been a 50’s style diner because it sported covered parking. At one point I’m positive I could have gotten a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake delivered to my window by a high school girl on roller skates that was made by a high school boy in a paper hat.
Inside, we were greeted by Will, a 24-year-old kava-ista. The place was completely devoid of patrons, and Will would have had to have been very dense to not notice Paulina and I stall after coming in the front door. He was quick to act, though, and friendly enough to make us feel welcome, preventing a heel turn toward another more lively bar closer to downtown.
He led us out a side door to the tiki bar. It was dark but had a warmth to it, furnished with bamboo stools and deeply cushioned easy chairs. Long skateboards hung on the walls and a light breeze circulated through the open shutter windows to the back patio area where half a dozen regulars were hanging out and playing darts. The crackling radio was turned down low, so I (for once in a bar) was able to hear everything that was said. It felt exactly like I think it should have – a south pacific, back road bar that makes newcomers think twice about entering, and those who belong dare to stay and see what’s next.
Our kava education began with the basics. Will told us that kava was the root of a pepper plant that had been ground up into a fine powder and mixed with water. Its effects are relaxing without the cost of mental impairment. It also has a reverse tolerance property. As he explained it, the first time one drinks kava he must consume as much as possible to get the desired effect, but each subsequent encounter with the drink would require less and less to get the same return. This didn’t jive with my limited understanding of the chemical and physiological universes; in fact it sounded more like my understanding of Apple’s sales strategy: buy as much as you can right now so you don’t have to buy it all over again later.
“That’s some shrewd marketing, Will,” I said with mock incredulity. In truth, if anyone else had said it I would’ve scoffed and thrown sideways eye-rolls at my companion, but I didn’t get the salesman’s air that I’m accustomed to in my everyday dealings.
With the new notion of reverse tolerance in our minds, we were advised to start with a double serving of the strongest kava drink available that night – the Chieftain. “You’ll want to drink it like a shot,” Will told us, “because it tastes like dirt and it’s just best to get it done with quickly so you can feel the effects sooner.”
He ladled up two coconut hemispheres that were full to the brim with brown watery liquid. You could find a substance of a similar pallor inside the yellow bucket after mopping the floor of a Starbucks. “Cheers,” said Paulina.”
“Up yours,” I responded.
I can say this about drinking kava: It looks like filthy dishwater and it tastes like heavily diluted mud someone dredged from the bottom of the Mississippi river.
Its effects, on the other hand, are surprising. The first thing you notice is that your tongue and throat become numb. Literally like sitting in the dentist’s chair and getting a light swish of liquid Novocaine . A few minutes after your first coconut shell of the grimy liquid you begin to feel… something. It’s hard to call it a buzz, exactly, but you know for sure that something chemical is going on. On Will’s advice we ordered a chaser to get the grit off our teeth.
The gunpowder green tea is excellent at Bula Kafe, but it does come from the kitchen too hot to drink right away. I ended up adding a bottle of Minute Maid orange juice to the tab and worked to make it last most of the night.
As we moved into the second helping I found that conversations started and carried a little more easily, but not quite with the same compounding level of volume as you might notice when a group is drinking alcohol. Everyone around the bar seemed to agree on a speed limit for the night. Things were relaxed. And it wasn’t until I first got up from the rattan bar stool to go to the bathroom that I realized how relaxed my muscles had become. I more swayed my way around the outside of the building to where the bathrooms were located.
We all told stories; April fools pranks and music scenes, Alexander Graham Bell’s intended telephone greeting (hoy-hoy!) and how Will got into the kava-kava game. It’s a social drink as a matter of culture, and it’s easy to see why Pacific men gather each night after work to choke down the silty bile. Frankly, I don’t have any recent memories of being quite so on my game when it came to striking up conversations with the women who came in as the night progressed.
Kava doesn’t seem to fool you into thinking that you’re funny or charming the way liquor does, because when you’re drunk it doesn’t matter what you say- you’re hilarious. Kava, on the other hand, lets you think quickly enough to sift through the bad material and use the gems, and it is in that clarity that you realize that there’s no logical reason to be insecure, which in turn feeds your confidence and makes you more bold.
That all said, kava is hardly Polynesian ambrosia. Again, it tastes like dirt (even smells like it), and the numbing effect that you feel on your tongue and throat can also be felt by your stomach. I had to stop half way through my third coconut because the thin layer of silt that had gathered at the bottom of the cup was making the drink too course for me to swallow. My body even attempted to reject what I had just drank and I ended up re-swallowing a throat-full of partially digested pepper-root water. As it turns out, many people get sick the first time they drink kava, so it’s always wise to listen to your body and quit a little earlier than you think you should. It’s also a very bad idea to mix any alcohol into your night, so when you go to the kava bar, plan to stick around.
The last shock of the night came with the bill. A single serving runs $5.35 for the strong stuff, so the double servings you’re encouraged to drink your first time out run $10.25 each. Throw in a few chasers and the well-deserved tip and you and your date are looking at around $70.00 to $75.00 for what I think is a pretty full night. That mental clarity to which I referred earlier must have included a selective blindness, because I do recall intentionally avoiding reading the menu, though that may have had more to do with not wanting to look cheap in front of Paulina.
So visiting the Bula Kafe was a very good experience, overall. Drinking the kava-kava was a bit like bungee jumping off a bridge: difficult to make yourself start, but worth the momentary numbness of gut in the end. Combine the chemistry with the list of interesting people we got to know who frequent the cafe and I would definitely add it to the list of St. Pete establishments to stop by every fifth (or maybe eighth) time I’m on that side of the Howard-Frankland bridge.
Before Bernie Berns posted a single episode of “Red vs. Blue” on RoosterTeeth.com he came up with the idea that their company would always do a thing six times before posting. We’ll run with that rule here, too.