Posted by Elliot Steingart
I continued to scroll through Drew's Facebook until I found a picture of the two of us wearing our cap and gowns on college graduation day, like the freeze frame of Julian and Clay leaning against each other at the end of Less than Zero. This might have been the first picture we took as UC Santa Cruz alumni—my arms around Drew, the first friend I made in college.
“Hey, my name is Andrew,” said the little guy who stepped into my dorm room. “I'm in the room two doors down.”
The two of us ate lunch in the dining hall with some other guy who was about as cool as an RA. By looking at each other Drew and I realized the other was Jewish. We established that both of us moved across the country during adolescence. We talked about sports and music and why we decided on Santa Cruz. I knew him for 20 minutes, but he was my best college friend.
I stare at the picture of us on graduation day and wonder why on the same day I graduated from UC Santa Cruz I'm wearing a tee shirt that says the University of British Columbia. It was as if it didn't matter to me where I graduated from as long as it was from somewhere. A few days after the picture was taken I would move to LA to become a comedian. Drew would move back to Minneapolis and travel and eventually teach English in Vietnam.
Drew wasn't the easiest person to be friends with in college. He lost my sunglasses, another time he spilled wine all over my carpet. I yelled at him both times.
When he visited me in Vancouver he lost his temper when I wouldn't walk with him to McDonalds when earlier I said I would. He drank too much, and wandered off from me and his other friends often. He was sloppy and indignant when he drank, but as bad as it got at times, his dark side only lasted so long.
I never thought I would look up to someone who was three inches shorter than me. He was someone I wanted to be like. I admired that he could fit into any social situation and relate to the richest or poorest of people. Girls loved him. He kissed more girls freshman year than in a night than most did in a year. He was a good tennis player who would make you run all over the court, and also a relentless poker checker on our floor hockey team. He played the guitar well, traveled to foreign countries and studied Macro Economics and European History subjects that seemed well above me. He wore warm up pants more than anyone I've ever known. It was as though his whole life up to that point had been one long warm up for all of his amazing potential, for the person he was sure to become.
Drew died four years ago at the age of 23. He was my first friend who died. It was the worst and hardest tragedy to comprehend.
For those that knew him it's a comfort to see his Facebook is still intact. I can see him dressed as Frodo on Halloween and smile. I'm thankful that someone took our picture together on graduation day. That picture is a reminder of what friendship means to me and how I must try harder to maintain the friendships I have.
I'm grateful that over thanksgiving I saw my old friend James who I hadn't seen much of since high school. I told him I didn't have a car and asked him to pick me he up. “I'm a 14 year old girl.” I explained. Along with our buddy Adam, we enjoyed a long night out in Encinitas that concluded with us relieving ourselves in the sand of Moonlight Beach.
This coming Saturday another old friend, Todd and I are going to our first minor league hockey game in Ontario, CA. Todd was my freshman roommate who I roomed with again my senior year until he was diagnosed with cancer. He bounced back and we are now playing golf almost every Saturday, albeit very poorly.
My best friend in college, Aviv, moved to Israel a few years ago. Earlier in the week he told me via Gchat that he is moving back to California, the best news I've heard all month. I'm trying to recruit him to my soccer team even though he is moving to San Jose.
Then there are my best friends Brad and Zach from Pittsburgh, who I visited over the summer and am now trying to arrange a time we can all hang again in LA with our other best friend Eli who now lives in Venice. These are the same three that saw me off from atop Brad's driveway before my family moved across the country.
Other friends, like Ryan and Ben, with whom I shared a house for two years I don't see enough. I wish I talked more to my other college friend Lewitter and many others I've cracked jokes with over the years. I'm grateful I still have the opportunity to see these guys.
I just want more pictures like the one I have with Drew.
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November 21, 2012 | 9:25 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
On a quiet Sunday night my girlfriend hinted she had something important to tell me. “I'm not sure how to tell you this,” she began.
“Tell me what?” I asked, somewhat concerned.
“I want to become a pastor,” she said.
Upon hearing the P-word, I spit as though my mouth was full of water. “You want to become a pastor?”
“I want to lead people and inspire them” she told me.
“Yea, but isn't that kind of extreme?” I asked spitting out more water.
“I want to deliver sermons, and give people advice,” she explained. “I love directing people on a path to something good. It makes me feel like a million dollars.”
“How about becoming a teacher? You would be a great teacher.The best.”
“I know but I really want to be a leader in the community. I want to give people purpose.”
“Yes, but pastors don't wear Uggs.”
Her heart is in the right place, but I would find it hard to introduce my girlfriend as “the really cute pastor.” Maybe I'm a little jealous. I know she likes Jewish guys, but I didn't think she liked Jesus that much.
“Religion isn't something I talk about with you, but it's important to me. I want you to come to church with me on Christmas Eve,” she requested.
The only time I've stepped foot in a church was to vote for Barack Obama three weeks ago. I was bored waiting in line and there was no air conditioning. That was not a favorable impression of church. The thought of celebrating Christmas in a church and not at China Palace saddens me.
“Hey, you aren't a pastor yet,” I shouted.
“Seriously, it's my favorite day of the year and I'd like you to come. You won't be the only Jewish person there. There are Rabbis that come. You can sit with them,” she laughed.
“We can talk about this at a later date” I stalled.
That later date was dinner. “I don't know if I could be with someone who wouldn't join me on my favorite day of the year,” she began to guilt trip.
I left my chair and crawled under the table to hide. I hoped taking shelter would save me from any further bombshells.
“You don't have to eat the wafer or drink the wine.”
“Good. I was planning on bringing my own anyway.” I assured her.
I could tell she was losing her patience with me. As a way of compromising I said, “I'll only come if I can dress as Santa.”
“It will be fun, trust me. You will love my pastor,” she said.
“Who is he?”
“Ed Bacon,” she told me.
His name is Bacon? You cannot get any more Gentile than Bacon. Fortunately, I love bacon. And I do love the Christmas spirit. If it means taking one for the team, even if it's another team, I might as well try out one church service. I'm sure there is a table at the church I can hide under.
November 14, 2012 | 11:10 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
While on a date night with my girlfriend waiting for a drink at a hip Los Feliz restaurant I made the comment “I don't think I like restaurants.”
“What?” she asked.
It was one of those moments where I wasn't sure what I just said. It's not like I concocted this brilliant idea “Before we go to the Clipper game I'm going to take her to Umami Burger, one of our favorite restaurants and gradually tell her, hey, I don't like restaurants!”
Did I really dislike restaurants or was I just upset that we walked from Los Feliz Blvd all the way down the hill to Hollywood Blvd before I realized I forgot my glasses and would not be able to see Blake and CP3 from the 300 Level at Staples?
“It's fine. I'll still be able to hear the cheering.” I said.
The bartender was singing along to Jack and Diane and I reacted. I still loved restaurants, right? It's fun eating food from all over the world and having someone else clean up after me. It's the same reason I love visiting my parents.
I looked again at the bartender/waiter wearing a faded vintage tee shirt searching for something other than basketball on Direct TV and it clicked. It's not that I don't like restaurants. It's that I don't like waiters my own age. This bartender, who seemed nice enough, had the disposition of someone I would have smoked with in high school. Now he is winking at my girlfriend and recommending that I eat a “Smash Burger.”
I have worked as a waiter so I know it's not an easy job. In 2008 I was one of many recession era waiters who served his peers with dignity and humility. We made small talk here and there, but we served with integrity. When I take my girlfriend out to dinner it's my time to shine. I don't want to compete with waiters who look and act just as goofy as me.
When I took my girlfriend to a French restaurant in Echo Park we were greeted by another waiter our age. He greeted us by saying “Voila.” Even if he was not fluent in French, “Voila” is not even close to how you say hello in French. When he brought us our Charcuterie he once again said, “Voila.” We had already said hello. How much longer would this continue?
“Is there anything you would recommend?” I asked.
“We are known for our pommes frites.” He responded.
They are known for their french fries. Are they? I wondered. Or was it that he knew how the French word for French Fries? I gave him a big tip because he was funny and I would have also definitely smoked with him in high school or now.
At a nicer Italian restaurant in the neighborhood a waiter our age with slicked black hair and black framed glasses asked us, “How are we doing this evening? Is everyone good?”
“We're fine, thanks.” I responded hoping to order a drink.
“What were we up to earlier?” He inquired. “Anything out of the ordinary?”
When he left to bring us wine my girlfriend asked, “Why aren't you being friendly?”
“Because I feel like he is waiting to do Improv.” I explained.
His improv skills were put to the test when he fudged through the specials. Linguini Scallopini...like that's a thing.
The larger problem is that these are the same waiters who serve me food that hurts my stomach. At a restaurant I want to order something I normally would not have. I end up paying $50 for a stomach ache.
Because of my relentless IBS, my new doctor has put me on a low fat diet. It's balanced by lots of chicken, turkey and green vegetables. My girlfriend and I have been cooking over at my new favorite restaurant, a local diner called “Steingart's.” There is no set menu but we have already made a big pot of wedding soup. "You just made the meatballs of your life," I told my girlfriend.
It's a work in progress at Steingarts. We don't always have ingredients, but there's always Tapatio.
Cooking together is a nice way for us to eat healthier meals and save money without having to make small talk with waiters in their late 20's. I feel at ease, and my girlfriend seems okay that every time I serve her a dish I look at her and say, "Voila."
November 1, 2012 | 10:47 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
Relationships are about compromise which is why I gave my girlfriend a night stand. She spends enough time at my place that she deserves an end table. While I accept her nightstand is hers to decorate, the chaos on her nightstand looks like it was caused by Sandy.
My nightstand is clean and uncluttered. I house my glasses, keys, and pocket change along with Charles Grodin's 2009 memoir, “How I got to be Whoever it is I am.” It's a 60 year old man's nightstand. The key essentials are within arms reach. Beyond the promise that stories of Charles Grodin's Bar Mitzvah will put me to sleep, I require nothing else but an an appropriate temperature to doze off.
My girlfriend does not sleep as well, and her nightstand is a reflection. Next to her bed she keeps Melatonin, a hormone to make her sleepy and two bright pink ear plugs. Sleeping next to me is clearly a challenge. I appreciate that. I snore a bit and make jokes in my sleep. I tried to help her fall asleep better by placing a framed picture of me and my late Golden Retriever, Cody Boy on her nightstand. In response she stuffed a red flower inside an empty beer bottle. It took me a while before I even realized where the flower came from.
“You took a flower from the Korean BBQ buffet?” I asked her.
“You weren't going to buy me any,” she sassed.
I believe there is a better place for a red flower growing out of beer bottle. That place is her apartment. There is more to her nightstand than sleep medication and arts and crafts. She has reading material on her nightstand, a hard bound copy of “365 Days of Salad.” It took me a moment to figure out how “365 Days of Salad” found it's way into my apartment.
“Did you take this from the fundraiser?” I asked.
“You don't buy me books,” she retorted.
“So you saw '365 Days of Salad' and thought to yourself, I have to have that. I need that much salad?”
I like salad fine, but what would be achieved by having this salad bible bedside? It's a glorified cook book, an index of exotic and organic greens. The author describes “A medley of corn with glossy black beans, pale gold quinoa and red tomatoes and bell pepper make a colorful, eye-catching salad.”
“Eye-catching” but not before bed. A fall salad of apples and walnuts of stilton cheese? This book makes up its own cheeses.
For someone who reads so much about salads, it would be nice if she actually made one from the book. Her salad of Blue Moon and sleeping pills is not featured in “365 Days of Salad.”
The thought of separating chick peas from leafy greens is enough to keep me up at night. Not too mention the time Lovebirds in Pasadena placed their fruit tray atop shreds of romaine. Lettucey cantaloupe, the stuff of nightmares. And looking at “365 Days of Salad,” the flowery beer bottle, the bright pink ear plugs, that might soon keep me up at night!
My hope is that a new day will rise when the nightstand will return to its original state. The Melatonin will find itself in the medicine cabinet and "365 Days of Salad" will be donated to Lovebirds. Maybe not before feasting upon potato salad with fava beans, green garlic and creme fraiche to be served on her clutter free night stand.