08 August 2008

One Reason I Love Being An Expat, The Day of 888 & Nicole's Loft

LB and I walked from Palermo Viejo to Palermo Soho today. And after a few minutes with company, I realized something: not only are Argentines interesting (especially when they're not too macho or neurotic or dramatic), but expats living in Argentina are pretty damn interesting too. Tonight Erika and I went out for drinks--overpriced smoothies really--at a Swedish bar called Olsen. Pricey, hard-wood floors, real animal fur coasters. Everything about it was odd in fact, except the company. At a large wedding table we had:

1. Me and Erika, the writer and pediatric nurse from Chicago.
2. Our new friend from London, Anne, who is a photographer
3. Nicole from Singapore who is a consultant.
4. Basia from Poland
5. Yara from Lebanon
6. Ken from Texas/California, an engineer who was on his 40th country
7. Pia from Finland
8. Her boyfriend/husband (no one really knows) Robin from New Zealand, another photographer
9. Vanny, a Boliviana-Argentina
10. A bunch of New Yorkers who didn't mingle as much. Typical.

After a few hours of chatting, we finally got some dinner at this very expensive Italian restaurant in Palermo Soho where Erika and I doled out a $100 pesos for a glass of red wine and two decent Italian pastas (napolitana and a puttanesca that was actually spicy). My favorite thing, actually, was the free tapenade that came with the bread.

Afterwards, we decided to go to Nicole's fabulous loft apartment where I became quickly aware of my class for yet a second time (the first being when I had to order two $35 bottles of Malbec for the table). Even so, I had a brilliant time. I don't think I've laughed that much since I was an avid pot-smoker, and that was in college, assisted by my carefree attitude and a bunch of THC.

Why did I laugh so much? Well, in a word: Ken. Ken is a nice, interesting, well-traveled guy. He's pretty smart too. But the problem is that Ken wants to dominate each and every conversation, even if he doesn't know what he's talking about, or if he's relying on conjecture, or even if he's speaking only from personal experience. Because he's a good person, it's hard to get mad at him. But because he actually sabotages a robust group conversation from taking place where everyone gets to shine in their proper light, sometimes you kinda hate him too. You find yourself listening to him because he's the only one who's speaking and yet in the back of your mind you know that he's the only person speaking because he keeps interrupting everyone, cutting them off once they're getting interesting. It's rudeness, agression and unabashed self-centeredness that's not really ironic or clever in anyway. Cleverness is an art the Brits know well, and they get away with a lot because they're so good at self-deprecating humor. But as for we Americans, sometimes we don't get it. We're usually understudies at best because we take ourselves so seriously. Of course, I have my own pedestrian theories on why Ken's this way, but I'll spare you those. But what I found really hilarious and satisfying, was the way that Anne, Nicole and I slowly joined forced and took Ken down, one snide comment, one come-back, one argument, one piece of sarcasm and rhetorical question at a time until eventually he just stopped making all this winding speeches that screamed LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME! ( and not in a Anita Brooknerish kinda way either, I was thinking more To The Lighthouse kinda look at me). Finally, Ken resigned himself to a plate of chunky silence, and a lot of head-shaking. It wasn't so much that we were mean to him or that we even wanted him to shut up, just that we were bringing him back to our level, to the little people level, a level that wasn't so bad really, a level with some smart and interesting and artistic and practical and well-traveled, friendly people (among us, a few former Cambridge, Yale, Notre Dame, Loyola students, a level where nurses, investment bankers, company consultants and fiction writers lived and breathed together for a few hours). Of course, we're all slightly arrogant. I mean, social justice is fundamentally arrogant on some level. But, at the same time, I think we're good people overall, flawed because we're human, but loving, basically sincere, curious people too all the same, and we think sometimes princes need to sit with their people, and the people should be allowed to use the royal china set from time to time. That's all.

A few shots from tonight that will now make much more sense:

This is When Anne, Nicole and I Started Being Bastards
This is Ken Resigning, After Hours of Snide Comments From the Peanut GalleryI'm Pretty Sure Anne Was Snorting Here


DaVe said...

Let us know when the next get together is! We'll show you that New Yorkers know how to mingle. :)

Robert Evans said...

If you don't mind me asking, what was the topic of conversation? I'm interested to know what the difference of opinion was.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to avoid people like you when I move to the city. Are you a writer or jilted emo teenage blogger?

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Sounds good dave. I'll let you know when a bunch of people are getting together for something.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Hey Robert,

No, I don't mind at all. The only problem is, I don't know where to start. I guess the main arguments were:

1. Did George H. Bush deliberately avoid invading Baghdad to kill Saddam Hussein because of his long-standing ties to the Bush family and American Big Oil? Ken's answer: no way.

2. Did the CIA give Iraq its blessings to burn the Kuwaiti oilfields in order to temporarily manipulate the petroleum market, increase oil prices during moments of critical investment? Ken's answer: no way.

3. How many patents do Big Oil Companies sit on in order to avoid being challenged by alternative energy sources? Ken's answer: none, because if they had patents, they would try to make money off of them (which is exactly what they've started doing once gas hit $4.00)

4. Is Hydrogen a viable alternative to fossil fuel? Ken's response: it's bullshit. Robin's argument is totally wrong, he explained. The science seems to point the other way. . .

5. What's the right way to approach women in a nightclub? Ken's answer: tell them you want to take them to someplace more intimate. Our response: that would never work, unless she was hammered, or blind.

6. Why doesn't anal sex "work out" sometimes with straight couples? Ken's answer: because his dick is too big. Our response, which he even conceded: porn starts that have zeppelins as cocks have anal sex in porn movies all the time, so it's more about lube, love, and a calm, relaxed girlfriend. Not to mention technique.

7. Is it a bad thing that "pleasing your man" is such an important cultural value in Asia (Singapore, Japan, China) and does it get in the way of women advocating their own needs and satisfying themselves sexually? Ken's response: keeping your man happy keeps the relationship happy. Our response (and we are Chinese, Japanese and Singaporean, mind you): not if it comes at the cost of your own sexual needs, or there is not some type of sexual parity where the woman is given the space to be sexual and have her desires fulfilled by a man who cares (and knows how to satisfy her).

8. Why do Asian women want to sleep with white guys so much? Ken's answer: because Asian guys don't know how to please their girlfriends. Our response: because, in addition to novelty, some of them might expect to find a more sexually balanced relationship in white men, only to find out that white men that travel to Asia to get laid under the pretense of business, travel, etc., actually want to be treated the same way Asian men want to be treated.

Anyway, I guess that's a rough summary RE. So now what do you think?

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Hey anonymous.

1. You're spineless for not even leaving your name. You read another person's blog where he exposes his fears, hopes, cross-cultural victories and disasters, and you shield your bitchiness with an anonymous comment. You should be ashamed of yourself.

2. If by "people like you" you mean people that think conversations should be balanced, interesting, and not dominated by one person's ego so that everyone has a chance to shine, I can't even imagine what your conversations are like. But don't worry, I hear St. Helena is still for rent.

3. How can I say this? You're an idiot. I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I can be arrogant, ridiculous, unfair, argumentative--you name it. But I try to be a good person and I value awesome conversation (not monologues), and when I watch someone attack and interrupt everyone else at the dinner table who dares to speak or disagree, I have every right (with the help of my friends), to bring that person back to earth.

4. Yes, I'm a writer. Damn proud of it too. But I'm warning you, you're about to move to a city where Lacan is like Britney Spears, tons of people have shrinks, and people like a freeflow, not a tyranny, at the table. I guess I won't seeing you there anytime soon.

5. My friends went out with Ken again by themselves a few days later. Ken is a person we actually like quite a lot, but I was told it was even worse than before: arguments, blind arrogance, unrepentant egocentrism, overcompensation--the whole number. And eventually, they just stopped talking, proving that we're not being assholes. Ken just doesn't know how to act in groups. God, who does that remind me of . . .

6. Ken, is that you?

Anonymous said...

JJEEJeejejej, solo un anglo pudo haber escrito esto.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Quiza, pero anónimo, tenés que especificar a qué se refiere esto "esto" en tu frase. Cheers.