what are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?

The Dinner Party Interview
Continuing the grand tradition of 'the interview game', a friend sent a back-channel interview with a unique twist: questions involving many of the parts of a fancy dinner party, and slight riffs thereon. I think I like it.

  • Drinks
    • Name a favorite new drink: I just read in a novel about something called Purple Jesus: grape juice, ginger ale & vodka. It sounds sweet as Hell but probably beyond delicious on a hot day. I would try that.
    • What are the best & worst parts, for you personally, about drinking alcohol? I was told today during a work meeting that I am 'unapproachable' and 'hard to talk to.' I've gotten the idea, in the past anyway, that when I'm under the influence, those attributes are lessened. That's the good.

      The bad is wanting to do it in greater quantity, and more often, than as a simple social activity. It's become very clear over the course of my adulthood that addictive personalities are rampant in my family of origin. Drawing the line between having a drink (or, sometimes, having a few) and going completely overboard--in drinks or behavior--is difficult, occasionally foolish, and rarely impossible. Often, I just don't.
  • Appetizer
    • Name a favorite appetizer: bruschetta. I prefer it on tiny pieces of bread that are small enough to be popped straight into one's mouth, rather than needing to be eaten in multiple bites. The tomato salad on top is usually rather precarious and doesn't lend itself to staying properly anchored to the toast and tends to tumble off, which is a serious bummer when you love it like I do.
    • What are the best & worst parts about the idea of starting a new phase in one's life, e.g. a new job or a relationship? The best part is leaving the bad parts of the old phase behind. Losing the dead weight. Kicking off the uncomfortable shoes. Getting out of the ruts that have held one back for however long.

      The worst part is how damned scary it is. What if it really isn't better, just a different version of bad? What if what's wrong isn't the old situation, but me? What if I'm really never supposed to be happy, just floundering in a goopy mess of discontent?
  • Soup
    • Name a favorite soup: Ham & Bean, one of the rotating daily variety from Afternoon Delight cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I miss that place so much, though being far away from it has probably helped me lose a substantial amount of weight. Reviewing the menu on line literally made my stomach growl.
    • What are the best & worst aspects of the point in a life change (diet/relationship/job search) where others (friends/family) become aware of it? The best is the promise of support that they offer, I suppose, if they are the sorts of people who would do that. Of being held in the arms of one's own community and taken care of, at least to some extent, and protected from the worst of it by the concern and affection of one's own people.

      The worst of it is the sense that one is on display. Vulnerability is hard to take under any circumstances, and particularly so when one is in a period of transition. I think that's why it's natural to want to have things like this locked down before we share the details with our loved ones sometimes--in part to save ourselves the scrutiny, but also to save them the secondary troubles if something goes wrong in the process. Maybe we can handle it on our own, sweep the remains under the rug, and get by without anyone else realizing the extent of our mess.
  • Salad
    • Name a favorite salad: Romaine and spinach with green pepper and a little onion, possibly green olive, lightly dressed with vinaigrette
    • What are the best & worst aspects of bringing together a disparate group of one's friends, e.g. a surprise party? My former spouse threw a surprise party for my birthday a few years ago. It was fun...and excruciating. There were friends there from grade school, junior high, high school, college, grad school--and also family. It was held at a bar in my hometown. I spent the whole time trying to make some connection between the people who were there, most of whom looked incredibly uncomfortable and were very stiltedly attempting conversation with each other but only with help. They weren't being difficult; they had been put into an impossible situation.

      The best thing about it? They were ALL there for ME. It was a huge honor, a blessing, and like nothing else that had ever happened in my life. I suppose one's own wedding is like that, and graduation parties and that sort of thing, but those are different because there's always something else going on at the same time and distractions from the me-me-me focus. They were ALL, just, there for me. He'd gone through our address book and just invited everyone I knew. How weird is that?! And they came!

      The worst thing about it? I was the absolute center of attention, the whole time. When I use the word 'excruciating', I do not exaggerate. I felt...desperate. It was mortifying. I don't usually get all "aw shucks" about compliments, but I seriously couldn't deal with how grateful I was at that. I think I was a teary-eyed mess for most of the night.

      And I also half wanted to smack the daylights out of my spouse, who clearly hadn't listened when I said, "No surprise parties." Why don't people ever believe it when one says something like that? Why would I lie?
  • Entree
    • Name a favorite entree: Ruby Tuesdays' "Parmesan Chicken Pasta: Parmesan-crusted chicken breast over penne pasta tossed in Parmesan cream sauce, then finished with tomato-basil sauce and Swiss." I don't like cream sauce at all, and I'm not wild about fried things with cheese things, but this is absolutely phenomenal. I love it.
    • What were the best & worst things about your entree into 'the otherworldly world of California'? The best thing was seeing my friend getting married. It was a long time coming, and not an easy road, and he was obviously very happy to be there. He was also very glad to be showing off his new home state to his family, of which I am an honorary member, so I enjoyed taking part in that. Seeing the Hollywood sign and the Staples Center and southern wine country was a joy that I will not forget.

      The worst thing was more personal, in a way, and a little harder to explain. There was a small, futile crush. It was painful, but more due to the futility than to the crushing--it wouldn't have ever gone anywhere regardless of when or under what circumstances it occurred, and it just happened to occur over a terribly romantic and also stressful weekend. Crushes aren't all bad, but they're definitely no great joy, either.
  • Cheese
    • Name a favorite cheese: fresh mozzarella, by far.
    • What are the best & worst parts of being cultured, of having developed taste? The best is that it sticks with you. Wherever you go, whatever you experience, once you have it, you will always appreciate things in a different, prehaps deeper way.

      The worst is that you can't escape it. Cheap beer is no longer quite as fulfilling on a hot summer's day--it tastes a whole lot more watery and terrible. Nacho cheese snacks, loved as a teen, are grossly salty and processed-tasting, rather than crave-worthy. The song that almost anyone else can hear four times a day grinds in one's ears like a burr-bit on a drill. Modern art starts to equal, sight unseen, travesty. Culture can begin to seem like snobbery, over time.
  • Dessert
    • Name a favorite dessert: "Cherry Cheese Dessert"
    • What are the best & worst things about falling in love? The best thing about falling in love is hope.

      The worst thing about falling in love is hope.

      If these two statements seem incompatible, then I wonder whether you've ever really been in love.
  • Coffee
    • Name a favorite hot beverage: Republic of Tea Cranberry Blood Orange black tea
    • What are the best & worst aspects of staying up late? The best part of staying up late is the quiet. Not just sound, but the way the perky people tend to nod off early and leave the rest of us to it.

      The worst of it is that the demons come out in the dark. Not real demons, but the ones that live in the back of your mind and taunt you when you're trying to think about anything but them.
  • Dinner music
    • Share a favorite piece of dinner music:
    • What are the best & worst that can be shared about the end of your last love? The best thing about the end? Ugh. Ummm...I suppose it's that it didn't linger. It was quick, and at the time relatively painless. We were dating (or whatever, in the vernacular), and then there was an undeniable gap of time, and then we were not dating. Or whatever. It didn't drag all over everywhere, pulling in bystanders and inanimate objects and what have you. It just ended.

      The worst of it is that I cannot get over it. Cannot, will not, refuse to. Whatever. I can't figure it out. Why did it happen?
      How, for that matter, did it happen? There wasn't that much to it, so it ought not be so difficult to determine. But I can't wrap my brain around it. It puzzles me. And I keep trying to work it out. And, while I do, I just keep standing still.

      That, right there, is the worst.
[the title quotation is by Ray Bradbury, from Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity]

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