September 22, 2016

The bearer of this, who is going to America, presses me to give him a letter of recommendation, though I know nothing of him, not even his name. This may seem extraordinary, but I assure you that it is not uncommon here. Sometimes, indeed, one unknown person brings another, equally unknown, to recommend him; and sometimes they recommend one another. As to this gentleman, I must refer you to himself for his character and merits, with which he is certainly better acquainted than I can possibly be. I recommend him, however, to those civilities which every stranger of whom one knows no harm has a right to; and I request you will do him all good offices.

Benjamin Fucking Franklin, 2 April 1777

by way of introduction.

My dear, timeless pal Benjamin Franklin (we call him Benjie, no bigs) wrote me the excellent if ambiguous letter of introduction. I was informed that the early US postal service, however, lost the mail again somewhere between Paris and thePueblo de Los Angeles, which if memory serves me correctly was in the process of being founded in that great year of 1777. Unfortunately for me, therefore, I will have to rely on my own words to serve as an entré into polite Internet society.

But what is "polite Internet society"--or more to the point, does either modifier really exist when it comes to the Internet?

Someone exploring this very concept is my friend Alex, who is twelve years into a twenty-year PhD program at some East Coast college I've never heard of, who came up with the wonderful idea of creating a small, insular newsletter for his dearest companions, acquaintances, and nuclear policy nerds. The only connection I have to nukes is that I am Korean, so I have decided to excise the nuclear policy from his newsletter, leaving me with--

the rake.

A rake is a wonderful gardening implement, one used to gather loose leaves and such. It is also, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which should know such things, "a dissolute person." A "dissolute person" is one "lacking restraint; especially:marked by indulgence in things (as drink or promiscuous sex) deemed vices.”

Therefore, the purpose of this newsletter shall be twofold. First, it shall serve to gather loose leaves of wisdom and wit from the Garden of Life. Second, it shall serve to feature writing--fiction and non-fiction--from both myself and my fellow rakes, who are, at time of writing, available at the Home Depot for a sale price of $19.99.

You are receiving this email because I have your email address, which I have gleaned legally and organically through personal, educational, and professional means.* If you should like to be removed from this newsletter's mailing list, please click "unsubscribe" below. However, I hope you will allow yourself to be raked at least once before you consign me to the compost heap. The rakings shall occur once every week or two weeks, depending on how dissolute I've been come time for publication.

an autumnal wine.

What to drink when the weather is still warm in the day but cools at night? How about a full-bodied white such as the ones you might find in the south of France? The2013 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe from the dynamic Brunier brothers is a blend of sundry grapes, mostly Clairette, with serious gravitas, refreshment power, and terrific body. It is perfect for a September dusk. Or, you would do very well with the2013 Bonny Doon "Le Cigare Blanc", which you should be able to find at your local Trader Joe's for around $25-$30.

the good lion.

There we were, my two friends and I, on New Year's Day, after having spent the previous night in Santa Barbara drinking and (at least on my part) attempting to find belles who might ring myNYE bells, so to speak, but, being unsuccessful in such endeavor, drinking a 2000 St.-Émilion out of plastic cups in my hotel room like true men.

We had just had some Los Agaves and, unbeknownst to me and my friend J. at the time, our friend A. had--prior to the miracle that is a Los Agaves dinner, mind you--consumed something that would, in due time, result in the end of the evening. But more on that later.

We three boon companions were dressed to impress (each other, in retrospect, as I was wearing a bow tie, and no woman actually thinks a man looks sexy in a bow tie) and decided to have a drink at the Good Lion before calling January 1, 2016 a night. I immediately spied two attractive young ladies at the corner of the bar, next to an empty stool, so of course I went to there.

There is an art to eavesdropping at bars. I call it "romantic reconnaissance." Basically, you need to be close enough to your person of interest ("POI") to be able to hear what s/he is saying, but not close enough where you are either 1) invading their personal space or 2) blowing your cover. Furthermore, bartenders are your friends: classic misdirection. By talking to bartenders, like I was, you simultaneously give the impression that you don't care about your POI, and that you are not a creeper.

So I was creeping on the two attractive young ladies and found that they were school teachers of some sort. One of them was making some eye contact with me (I think? though she could have very well been looking past me at the wonderful crown molding), and I saw that they were both a bit more than midway through their current drinks. Perfect. During a lull in their conversation I asked: "are you teachers?" I don't know if they were startled or pleased, or both, but we ended up talking for about ten or twelve minutes.

My two friends, by the way, had gone further down to a table in the back, where they were busily discussing some minutiae of quantitative analysis. I told the school teachers that my friends were interested in them (which was not entirely true), and would they mind if I invited my friends in to the conversation? The school teachers said not at all (which was probably not true).

I retrieved my two friends. J. and A. made some conversation, but only half-spiritedly, like talking cattle halfway between a factory farm and a slaughterhouse. They were not, by any stretch of the imagination, being good wingmen (at this point in time). After about half an hour, they excused themselves and said they would be going out for a quick walk, which left me alone again with the two school teachers.

Alas, this broke the spell, just as a greasy nose can deflate the head of a good beer. I had over-promised and under-delivered, like a Depression-era vacuum salesman, or like a Republican Congress. The school teachers left to ride their bicycles (!) away from the bar and away from my clutching arms.

I was a bit miffed. It wasn't till later that I learned "going out for a quick walk" was actually code for "throwing up explosively." So, I guess I couldn't be too mad.

Also, the Good Lion serves some wonderful drinks. Ask for a classic (not Hemingway) daiquiri.


* Totes security breaches†.

† Of the Russian variety.