Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Celebration (with Tapas!)

On Saturday evening, the former co-worker, his girlfriend, and I went out to celebrate the successful conclusion of his MBA program. He defended his thesis on Friday, in a day-long event that included the other classmates who each took turns presenting and defending their thesis. It occurred during the workday, so I was not able to go. However, for my friend, he feels relieved that its all over. For myself, though it was stressful at times, I don't regret helping him with his papers. I learned a lot, as well. Perhaps the biggest thing I learned is that I think an MBA is a b.s. degree and I have no interest in getting such a degree. All the books and papers and group projects revolve around leadership, when the reality is that our society doesn't really want leaders who think creatively and "outside of the box." Also, not everyone can be (nor should be) a leader. Additionally, most corporate culture is about playing by the established rules and being a "yes man" if you hope to climb the corporate ladder to mid-level manager status. None of that appeals to me.

However, I am all for celebrating the accomplishments of a friend. In the past year and a half, I've gotten to know him a lot better. Though there were frictions at times between our two different personalities (he being the alpha male go-getter and me being the beta-male, laid back, go with the flow kind of guy), I've come to think of him as a friend and hope he considers me likewise. After all that time we spent together on his papers, I would hope that a genuine friendship has formed. So, in honour of his accomplishment, we went out to eat at a nice, upscale restaurant in the Pearl District (called Oba!). I gave him a card and a couple of gifts: a Nike ballcap since he hopes to work at that corporation before the year is out and the season 7 DVD of Entourage, which is the show that we became friends over when we discovered that we both liked the show. He reminds me a lot of the character Vincent Chase, who is the charismatic guy at the center, whose Hollywood career benefits his core group of friends (and has-been older brother). My personality is a lot like Eric (or "E" as he's called by everyone). Eric is the best friend, the loyal guy who does a lot of the behind the scenes work (such as reading scripts, delivering messages, cleaning up the mess).

My friend was surprised by the gift. He also seemed impressed with the small card that I made, which featured the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon I had featured on my blog last week. That cartoon was so true of our experience writing his thesis. We had a lot of laughs over that. I think even his girlfriend was impressed with the cards and gifts that I gave. When I had handed him a bag filled with the stuff, he wanted to give me a hug in the middle of the street in the Pearl District, but I begged off. It was actually pretty funny. I'm not a hugger by nature, but even moreso in public. I can tolerate it at church (key word being "tolerate"), but there are other ways to show appreciation. It was all in good fun, though.

During part of our conversation, I had asked him if he planned to keep in touch with any of his classmates. I was surprised when he said no. He was with the same group of about 15 people for a year and a half. No friendships formed out of that? He told me that it was because he can tell when people are being fake and he doesn't like that. In fact, he told me that one of the things that impressed him about me when we met early on at the place I used to work at, was that he noticed that I'll tell the truth no matter what. He had told me before that some of my comments were tough to take, but he knew it came from the heart so it wasn't being mean. He's a lot like me: preferring a harsh truth over a flattering lie. I'm impressed. Still, I'm somewhat surprised that someone can be in the same group of 15 people for a year and a half and not find at least one or two friendships out of it.

A lot of the conversation revolved around dating and their giving me unsolicited advice. I didn't mind, though, even if there are some disagreements. Its interesting and helpful to get the perspective of people who know me, though. My friend wants to give me an image makeover, much like in the upcoming film that we plan to see: Crazy Love (or whatever its called, starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, and Ryan Gosling). Basically, both he and his girlfriend see in me a guy who lacks confidence, which is the unseen quality that could have a huge impact on my dating life. Maybe, or maybe not. The honest truth is that I'm not attracted to a lot of the women I see. For one thing, there are a lot of single obese women walking around and that's a turn-off for me. For another, there are a lot who display superficiality and materialism. I want someone real and I have found plenty of them advertising on Match.com (though I have not received a response for any of the ones I've contacted so far). I also find a few ladies who attend the discussion group I participate in to be attractive and I plan to show more interest in one of them (the one who lived in Senegal for a year or two and who was in Paris on the day Obama got elected president). The qualities I find most attractive in a woman are: intelligence, kindness, and a global perspective. The way she looks is less important to me than her inner qualities and I say this as one who has found some women attractive that other guys did not find attractive.

My friend told me what he had told his girlfriend and she confirmed what he had said to her. He said that he sees me as this incredibly smart, funny, and nice guy and cannot understand why I haven't found a lady to marry by now. I told him that I wasn't as smart as people think I am, but he and his girlfriend refuted that. I'm flattered, but really, this perception thing is really bizarre to me. Since childhood, people have assumed me to be much smarter than I really am. I only got straight A's during my senior year in high school. In college, when I was a better student, I only managed to get two A's out of all the courses I took (a major disappointment for me). My ACT and SAT scores were quite low (in fact, the two times I took the SAT, I could not even break 1000, which was another source of disappointment). In high school, the other classmates thought I read the encyclopedia every night! When I took the ASVAB (the test for entering the military), my AFQT (Armed Forces Quotient Test) score was a 74, which I thought was low. Until I was in the Navy and had to review service records of people and realized just how high that score was in the Navy's esteem (I learned that I rarely got along with guys who scored below a 60...and there were a lot of guys who scored in the 30 range). Am I truly "smart" or is this the perception that other people have of me that has little basis in reality?

My friend's girlfriend recommended that I see the film Larry Crowne, because she saw me as the Tom Hanks character that I could probably identify with. Wow...and she has no idea that Tom Hanks has been my favourite actor for about 26 years now. I want to see the film, though it does not look very good. I'm waiting for it to come to the second-run theaters or DVD. Anyhow, it was interesting to hear them tell me what I need to do in terms of dating and impressing ladies, because the way we approach things are so different. For example, while a "makeover" might be amusing for cheesy romantic comedies produced by Hollywood, in real life, being inauthentic can lead to poor outcomes. I've had people compliment me on my style of clothing, so I don't think that's an issue. If anything, I think I'm weakest on initiative...the knowing when to express my interest (I was too quick with one lady and too slow for another) and when to make my move.

As I watched The Adjustment Bureau again, I realized that the lady in the film never makes an attempt to contact the David Norris character. He always has the misfortune of not knowing her full name, of having her phone number taken away, and of having an entire bureaucracy devoted to keeping him away from her. Yet not once does she show initiative and seek him out. After all, its much easier to find a famous person than someone whose name you don't know. Women like being pursued, I guess, even if it seems silly to me. Perhaps I expect too much for the feeling to be mutual so I don't have to make the first move and risk rejection. That is something I need to work on. But as far as a complete makeover, I don't think that's necessary. I believe that a woman who is attracted to me, where the attraction is mutual, will be because we had a contractual destiny to meet at the right place and time. When we meet, there will be some kind of "soul recognition" where we both feel drawn to the other person. If at least three of my friendships happened this way, then of course the most significant relationship of my life better have something like this!

The restaurant we ate at is called Oba!, which is in Portland's very trendy Pearl District (which is where I would live if I had the money). The reason why I love the Pearl is because it reminds me a lot of a European city. I consider this to be Portland's most European section. The restaurant is upscale, in a price range I almost never see. Since this is a special occasion, though, I considered it a rare treat. We each ordered two tapas plates and shared. I was impressed with everything everyone ordered. Everything tasted so good! I also had a Mojito, which has become my favourite alcoholic beverage (thanks to another former co-worker who had introduced me to this drink several years ago). I was first introduced to tapas last November, when I was visiting a friend from the Washington Seminar and her husband in Mountain View, California. Everything was so delicious and I became an instant fan of tapas. I can't believe I have lived this long without tasting tapas. I'm not even sure what tapas is defined as, but its basically a Spanish dish of small portions that is best eaten with other tapas dishes. Ordering one dish is not enough, generally. The more variety, the better. But its also not very cheap.

The above photo shows the "ambiance" of the restaurant. I liked the ultra cool vibe. Its definitely a restaurant for me to return again. I'd love to eat there the next time my parents visit, but I don't think my dad would like the prices. I'll probably have them try Cafe Yumm! instead. Speaking of which, when I went to Cafe Yumm! for lunch to get my weekly Yumm Baby Bowl, I was informed (after paying by debit/credit card) that they had just run out of jasmine rice and would I allow brown rice instead? Really? I've eaten at this place practically every week for the past year and they have run out of a key ingredient?!? I've tried other bowls and nothing tastes as good as the Yumm Baby bowl. The manager (or assistant manager) tried to talk me into another menu item, but I told him that I eat there every week and I find their Yumm Baby bowl to be the most perfect meal I've ever tasted. He responded with a "Wow!" They gave me a complementary Dr. Pepper and an offer of a free Yumm Baby bowl the next time I come to the restaurant. I told him that I only come downtown once a week, so the soonest I'd be back was next Friday, for the Flicks on the Bricks. He said to pick it up then. I was impressed by their customer service. I wasn't being a difficult customer nor did I make a big deal out of their not having the menu item I was craving for, yet they made such gestures! No wonder why I'm such a huge fan. Anyone who visits me in Portland will have to experience for themselves why I love the Yumm Baby Bowl so much!

After our meal at Oba!, we went to NW 23rd for our dessert. It made for an expensive evening, but it was worth it in celebration of a friend's accomplishments. No matter how stressful it was at times, I don't regret being a ghostwriter and helping someone who doesn't know how to write English very well to succeed in his dreams. I like to think that I got a good friendship out of the deal and hope to see him succeed in his career (which is getting out of the place where I used to work). Last year, when we first started our ghostwriting partnership, I was also volunteering on a political campaign for County Commissioner. When my candidate lost, my friend asked me if I felt like I had wasted my time. I said, "No, because I think I got a good friendship out of the deal." I had only been acquainted with the candidate, but after he saw how loyal and reliable I was, I think he values my friendship, as many people generally do when they take the time to get to know me.

Many people complain about flaky people, and many of the people who complain about flaky people happen to be flaky themselves, so I'm not surprised that when people realize that I'm about as loyal and true a friend as one is likely to find, that people value that. I do consider my loyalty gene to be my best trait. In every friendship I've had, there was always a moment where the bonding moment took place, where I just know that the friendship is set for life. With this friend and former co-worker, it was during the thesis project (perhaps even sooner than that, but definitely when I did not bail on him at the last moment, which he probably worried about). So, tonight was all about a celebration. Not only of a friend's accomplishments, but also about a genuine friendship. Here's to much success as he seeks a new career and as I seek a romantic relationship with a lady who is looking for a guy like me. My friend and his girlfriend already want to double-date me and whoever I shall meet and pursue. Looking forward to that. Good times ahead and I got to keep on moving.

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