DC Darkfriend Social

March 2, 1996

The Cab^H^H^H DC Darkfriends met on Saturday, March 2, 1996, in Rockville, Maryland. According to Chad, this is the Rockville described in the R.E.M. song "Don't Go Back to Rockville." Well, after the bland food in the restaurant and eye-wrenching, Tinker-like colors in the food court where we later reposed, we probably won't be going back to Rockville. We had considered several restaurants "right near the Clarendon metro stop" but discarded them all for various reasons. Maybe next time.

Attending this time were Bill Garrett, Hawk, Joe Shaw, Chad Orzel, Mike Macchione, Millie Rogers, Mike Ikeda, Matt Orwig, Mike Owellen, Marc Sanders, and Craig Levin. Craig arrived late... just about the time we were thinking about leaving and going somewhere else. I think it was Joe who told Craig, "You'll be happy to know that we talked about Novak already and we're all done with it now." Craig's response was something vaguely akin to "Huh?" Joe (or whoever) explained, "Well, you're Novak's spy and defender, aren't you?" Craig denied the allegation.

[Joe adds: That was not me. I deny having made any mention of The Novak.]
[Hawk: Who wouldn't deny it?]

I suggested that we DC darkfriends could take nicknames from Wheel of Time characters, like the Texas darkfriends do, but that we should use names of minor characters to avoid confusion. "For example, I could be Samel Hake," I said. "I'm sure I can earn the name... I can wear a white apron, look grouchy, slap women around, and make people wonder whether or not I'm running a house of prostitution."

[Hawk asks: You have to earn the name?]
[Chad notes: I dunno about a brothel, but you and Hawk could definitely run a peepshow...]

That was about the only thing WoT-related that we discussed at the social. In past years, we've run dry the well of ideas after about 9 months of discussion of any new book. We've now been waiting almost 18 months for CoS. Figure out for yourself how long it's been since anyone's had a new idea.

Instead of talking about WoT, we shared stories about our lives -- or the approximate facsimiles thereof that we have. That lasted a few minutes. Next we turned the social into a mini PeeveFest of sorts, lambasting the CDA, stupid liquor laws, police trying to enforce stupid liquor laws, and boneheads on Usenet. As you can tell, none of these were particularly hard targets.

I don't know why, but it seems that there's something funny in the bathrooms at every restaurant we go to. When we've been at Rio Grande, we've had fun with the chalkboard and chalk in the men's room. When we were at Chevy's, we joked about the corrugated aluminum stalls and the pictures of beer on the ceiling. This time, at the Cactus Grill, the focus of bathroom discussion was the tray of business cards above the toilets. The men's room featured ads for flying lessons, scuba lessons, hair augmentation, and homebrewing supplies. The homebrewing store even had its email address and WWW homepage listed on its cards. URLs in bathrooms? Imminent Death of Net Predicted, hypertext at 11.

Hawk starting throwing things again, like she's done at the past few socials. I made the mistake of letting her take the loose change out of my pocket; she turned my pennies into weapons of mayhem and terror. I'm not sure why, but she singled out Mike Owellen as her main target. Maybe it's because she was hitting on him? Maybe it's because he was sitting across the table from her and hence was the easiest target? Anyway, Mike, you have yet to learn the first lesson of dealing with Hawk: Don't give things back to her after she throws them at you.

[Chad says: I got an alarming amount of change thrown at me. Women throwing money at me- I tell you, I have to start going to more of these things...]

Chad came to the rescue after about half an hour of general shelling and mortar fire, by channeling Hawk's energies into an ever-so-slightly more productive activity. Leading by example, he got her to try throwing pennies into cups and pitchers instead of people's shirts, eyes, and mouths. She had terrible aim, though.

[Millie adds: Hawk described the coke as battery acid. We figured we could make a battery by throwing a penny into the coke, but didn't want to waste it.]

Hawk landed a penny in a bowl of uneaten bean soup. Somehow this event brought us all together as a group. Everyone stopped what they were doing and solemnly leaned over to view the bean-ensconced coin. It was like a goddamn shared religious experience or something. I could understand that degree of rapt attention if someone had just stood up and keeled over dead, but this was just a penny in a bowl of bean soup -- and not even good bean soup, at that.

Speaking of inexplicable circumstances such as that, Hawk said something that had half the table laughing and half staring at the first half and wondering what was so funny. She said, "It's wet. I don't want to wear it, and I don't want to put it in my pocket." She was talking about her necklace, which got wet when she washed her face in the bathroom. What was so funny about that? I dunno... must be Aiel humor.

Anyway, back to the saga of penny and the bowl of bean soup. When we finished mourning the dearly departed one-cent piece, we decided it was time to vacate the restaurant in favor of another hangout. We were perhaps encouraged in this decision by the evil looks the restaurant manager had been giving us for the past hour. Did anybody see him wearing a white apron and slapping a waitress? Maybe he runs a whorehouse.

We had limited options for where to go next. There were several other smarmy restaurants (choice of about 10), a slightly-smarmy bookstore with a cafe, a smarmy computer store, and a smarmy mall with the requisite food court (smarmy by definition). We wanted minimal smarminess, so we set off toward the bookstore. When we got there, we found that the cafe had no vacant seats. The bunch of us hovered there for several minutes, hoping that we could scare away some of the customers just by being our usual selves. Nobody left. Whether this says more about us or about typical bookstore patrons, I don't know.

Having been defeated by apathy in the bookstore, we decided to go to the aforementioned smarmy food court. We hate food courts. We hate smarminess. But we go to smarmy food courts anyway. Go figure.

This food court was particularly smarmy. It only had about 4 food sellers, all of them selling particularly smarmy things like quiche or using smarmy names like "Strawberry Shortcake" when the item purported to be strawberry shortcake looked like some sort of slime scraped off a horse's hoof. The area was decorated in smarmy colors... black- and yellow-trimmed walls with an entire spectrum of smarmy neon lamps for illumination. Smarm city. I doubt I can adequately convey the level of smarminess in this place without adding "smarm" a few more times. Smarm, smarm, smarm.

[Joe comments: Well, it did have a big picture of an avendasora tree on the wall. I figure its calming effects are what keep the level of smarminess down to just barely under the legal limit imposed by the EPA. (See? Big Government Is Our Friend!) Still, the EPA and Maryland Department of Health recommends eating in the smarm-infested foodcourt no more than twice a month to allow your body to cleanse itself of the smarm-toxins.]

At the food court we commandeered our fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth tables of the day. Yes, I know, it's a shameful secret, but it's time to let it out. We DC darkfriends have been using more than 1 table for a long time. We've done two at once. We've had threesomes. We've done groups of 5, 6, or more at the same time. We don't care whether they're black, white, or covered with checkerboard mats. We've hid behind trash cans, stalking them and grabbing them as soon as they're free. We've done tables and their parents at the same time.

I'm really running low on things to talk about. Can't you tell? If you think you're suffering now, though, you should be thankful for all the things I've chosen to leave out.

I wanted a chocolate milkshake. I had to have a chocolate milkshake. I went to a likely purveyor of chocolate milkshakes, but he refused to purvey me a chocolate milkshake. He offered me a smoothie, which was sort of like a chocolate milkshake except that it had no chocolate but fruit instead. I pointed out to him that he had chocolate frozen yogurt, milk, and a milkshake machine in his possession; yet he claimed to have no chocolate milkshake. He tried to foist another smoothie on me -- some ill-begotten beverage with a gastric name like "Appleberry Abomination". I declined and went off in search of a chocolate milkshake. Hawk went with me, not because she likes chocolate milkshakes (she hates them, as far as I can tell), but because she's afraid the darkfriends will pounce on her if I'm not there to scare them away with my sinister looks, foul breath, and bad jokes.

Our chocolate milkshake hunt was successful, and we returned to the group about 10 minutes later. By then, of course, everyone was wondering where we had been. Suggestions were floating around that we had absconded to engage in pleasures of the flesh together. Sure, the happy smile on my face may have fostered a few suspicions, but come on people, 10 minutes? I make even a chocolate milkshake last longer than that.

The social's end was anticlimactic: Chad stood up. Everyone left.

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Bill Garrett