Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Dropping names/Shut down at the door

It's been a while. A long, long while. And I have no legitimate excuse (other than being lazy), so I'm not even gonna offer one. Hope all is well with everyone. Don't give up on me yet. There really will be "more later"...

Boy, oh boy. It’s funny how a few weeks can change your entire life. After my love letter to NYC post a couple months ago, I caught so much flack over the way that I dissed and dismissed my hometown. And, funny enough, some of the people I offended weren’t even native Washingtonians, but rather people who had chosen DC as their home away from home. This didn’t surprise me. I did give DC a pretty bad rap. And I do still love New York (doesn’t everyone?!), but I’ve recognized that someone is trying to send me a sign that I don’t belong there. Since I’ve last written, I’ve gotten a new job. A job that I really, really wanted and a job that might possibly cure me of my eternal brokeness. I could’ve never imagined that I could’ve secured such a salary increase with just one semi-lateral move. They came at me with a pretty decent offer and I was tempted to accept it. And, trust me, I am not trying to look a gifthorse in the mouth (whatever that means), but I read an article once about how women NEVER negotiate in these types of situations. So, I decided that I would send them back to the drawing board at least one time before I accepted. I thought that the offer they came back with was ludicrous, actually, and I figured I’d better take their offer before they realized that I might not be worth what they are paying me. Now, trust me, it’s not like they’re paying me a boatload of money. But compared to what I’m being paid now, a “normal” salary is such a HUGE improvement since my current position is basically legalized slavery. ANYTHING would be better than my current salary situation. But, I digress. The point is that I got the job and I’ve accepted it. I’m happy with the salary and I’m looking forward to making some positive contributions to my new employer.

Unfortunately, the offer extended was for the DC office of this company and that meant no relocation to NYC after all. So I was a bit bummed about that. But, given the fact that I was JUST complaining in my last post about people who have bunches of blessings, I’m sitting here criticizing the blessing that I have been given. Once, a very wise woman from my church said to me, “When it’s time for you to make a transition to another location, it will happen easily. Everything will come together if it’s what God wants for you.”

Well, it sure is taking me forever to get to NYC, so I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not meant to be. For now. But now that I’ve committed to this new job of mine, I have to settle into DC for at least another year. And, so, I’ve got to find some ways to make this city more fun. In an effort to get out and have some new DC experiences, I decided that it was high time I start spending more time with my older brother.

For those of you who don’t know, my older brother is somewhat of a celebrity. Or maybe, come to think of it, actually a bona fide celebrity. The first time I realized that my brother was a celebrity was maybe four or five years ago. We were walking through downtown Silver Spring, where his office is located, on our way back to the office from lunch. A man was watching us walk down the major thoroughfare. He stopped my brother on the street and struck up a conversation. While he was talking, I tried to place his face (I’m really good with faces). I studied his facial features and came up with nothing. I didn’t recognize him. I waited until they were done speaking and the guy had walked away.

“Who was that?” I asked my brother.

“I don’t know,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.

“You don’t know,” I repeated. “He sure did know you.”

My brother brushed it off and we kept it moving to the next location. That’s when I knew he was a local celebrity. And, then, there was the time I discovered that he was a national celebrity. My brother and I were taking the train to New York for some photo shoot or something (a normal celeb activity) and we were sitting in one of those four-seater sections on the Amtrak Metroliner. An older white woman was sitting across from us and we could tell by her cell phone conversation that she was a lawyer. My brother (and lawyer) and I (at the time a law student), occasionally gave each other knowing glances and rolled our eyes at certain parts of her conversation. Afterwards, my brother told the woman that we were a lawyer and a lawyer in training. We found out that she was a corporate lawyer from Northern California who was up and down the East Coast for a week’s worth of meetings. She asked what kind of law he practiced and when my brother told her that he didn’t actually practice, but was a musician who owned his own record label, she went ballistic.

“Oh my God!” she said. “That is so awesome! Would I know your music?”

“Maybe,” he said. “I play jazz.”

“Ok, I love jazz. What’s your name?” she asked.

“[Brown Girl’s Brother],” he said.

This time she went ape shit. “I know you! I just saw you in concert a few weeks ago in the Bay Area,” she said. She started asking him for autographs and all that shit. It was very surreal. That time, even my brother was impressed. His name was well-known on the West Coast. Or, maybe it was a coincidence, but to us, that was pretty serious stuff.

At any rate, he knows tons of people here in DC. So, I decided that if I wanted to see the best side of DC, it is best to roll with him a couple times so that I, too, could enjoy the star treatment. So, I decided to hang out with him and his wife a few Saturdays ago. Oh, and, yes, he IS married. But that is a story for a different post. I don’t have the time to get all into that just yet. LOL!

I met my brother and my SIL at a place called Jordan’s 8, which is located in Southeast DC on Capitol Hill. Now first of all, I have pretty much avoided Southeast for my entire life. It is the most notorious and treacherous quadrant of the city. When I was growing up, one just did not venture into Southeast unless one had to. As I received directions to the spot via text message from my brother, I spotted the “SE” at the end of the address and pretty much made up my mind right then and there that I would not be attending the party.

“Stop being a scaredy cat,” my brother scolded.

I was having dinner with Bestie out in Rockville (the ‘burbs) and headed into the city alone because Bestie decided that she’d rather sit this one out. Once I reached Capitol Hill I began to see how gentrification had taken over this part of the city as well. It was about 11pm and there were white people all over the neighborhood, jogging, walking dogs, riding bikes, etc. I was shocked. Clearly, I don’t get out enough. As I made my way over to the area where the bar was located, I noticed that things got even busier. There were tons of people walking around and I passed through blocks and blocks of cute restaurants and trendy bars. This was definitely not the Southeast I remember. Everything was so nice! And new! And clean! Gentrification had really changed things up!

I was able to park on the street right in front of the spot (!) and I could see the sign for Jordan’s 8 in my side-view mirror. I walked up to the door and a very large man was standing in front of it, blocking my view of the inside. He held a clipboard with a list of names attached to it.


Now, let me preface the remainder of this story by saying two things. First, I rarely go out alone. I am usually ALWAYS with at least one other person. And, if I do go out alone, I make sure that I am meeting someone at the front door of whatever venue I’ll be visiting because I just do not feel right about being out alone at night. I think it’s mostly a safety issue, but I also feel as though having another person with me can prevent me from having to talk to or interact with other people. I also find that having a conversation (or pretending to be having a conversation) on your cell phone is also a good strategy to help get yourself out of awkward social situations. This time, I had nobody traveling with me and my cell phone battery was nearly dead (that damn Tmobile DASH), so I was trying to hook up with my brother and SIL as quickly as I possibly could. I just felt so vulnerable arriving at the club alone. (I understand this is a personal issue that I need to work on.)

Second, I hate – I mean, absolutely HATE – to drop names. My friends don’t understand my hesitation. So, for instance, it was Howard’s Homecoming weekend, which is one of the busiest weekends of the year in DC. My friends wanted to get into a party at one of the most exclusive parties. My brother knows the owner of the club and the promoter of the party pretty well. He tells me to go to the door and ask for “Steve” and tell him who my brother is and my friends and I will get in for free. I listen closely to the directions that my brother is giving me over the phone, hang up, turn to Denise and say, “Pick another party. We’re not going to that one.”

“What? Why?” she asks.

“I am not going to walk to the front of the line, ask for some guy named ‘Steve’ and then hope that he’s feeling generous when I tell him who my brother is. What if he makes a fool of me? Like, what if, when I tell him my brother’s name, he tells me to go to the back of the line?”

“That’s ridiculous,” Denise says. “Your brother wouldn’t set you up like that.”

“Well, I am the one who would look stupid, not you. I’m not doing it.”

And so, we went to a different party that night. All because I didn’t want to drop a name. But, I’d rather stand on my own two feet than rely on my brother’s name to get me into places. So, most times, even though I could probably get into all the hot parties in the city, I stay home and twiddle my thumbs. But, recently, I’ve decided that I should get over this fear that I’ll be rejected at the door.

But, I digress (as usual).

So, back at Jordan’s 8: Before I speak to the guy at the front door, I text my brother who is already inside with my SIL.

Is there a cover, I write.

He responds, You are on the list.

Great, I think to myself. No worries.

I approach the door and the guy looks down at me and asks, “Can I help you?”

“I’m here for the private party,” I say.

“Are you on the list?”



“Brown Girl.”

He flips through the papers. Scans the papers. Flips through them again. Looks at me and then starts flipping through them again.

“I’m sorry, you’re not on the list. You’ll have to see the people inside.”

He steps aside and opens the door. I walk into the very sexy Jordan’s 8. Everything is glass, chrome, and primary colors. Sounds like a strange combination, but it works. There is a woman with big curly hair wearing a puffy dress and a jean jacket standing near the hostess stand and a tall, burly man standing near the wall.

“Can I help you?” Burly asked.

“Hi, I’m on the list, but the man standing outside didn’t see my name.”

“What is your name?” he asked.

“Brown Girl.”

He scans the list, looks up and breathes heavily, then looks at the list again. This time, he tells me to speak to the girl in the puffy dress.

“What’s wrong?” she asks Burly.

“This young lady is supposed to be on the list, but she is not.”

While they confer, I pull out my cell phone and begin sending a text to my brother asking him to come downstairs to get me. This is getting embarrassing and other people are being escorted into the party while I am being publicly humiliated at the hostess stand.

“What is your name?” the woman asks me.

I repeat my name for the third time that night. She asks me who put me on the list, what time I was added to the list, how I found out about the party – basically a shitload of questions that I didn’t have answers for. I tell her that my brother told me about the party and he is the one who said I was on the list. I tell her my brother’s name and she doesn’t believe me. Now, my brother is well-known, true. But, it’s not like I told her that my brother is Michael Jackson, or Diddy, or Denzel. Why she found it unbelievable that I am my brother’s sister, I am not sure. But at any rate, she tells me to call my brother and ask him to come downstairs or else I will not be allowed into the party. At this point, I am feeling like getting in my car and heading back to the burbs. For a person who is umcomfy with name-dropping, this night has already proved too much for me!

They are saying I am not on the list and I am embarrassed and if you don’t come downstairs to get me in the next 2 minutes, I am leaving, I text.

I wait 5 minutes (which happened to be the 5 longest minutes of my life as I watched several groups of people walk right into the party after finding their name on the list), and just as I am about to turn on my heel and hightail it out of there, a tall, overweight man comes down the stairs and walks over to me.

“Are you Brown Girl?”

“Yes,” I reply.

“I’m Shank. This is my party. Come on in.”

Thank you, Jesus! After ALL that nonsense, I am finally allowed to go in and join my brother and SIL. And the funny thing is, once I got past the velvet ropes, the party wasn’t all that. My SIL looked gorgeous, as usual, and almost immediately after my brother bought me a drink, she was ready to “find a sexier crowd” (her words). All of that to turn around and head out to another party?


So, once we head downstairs and pass the hostess stand again, the girl in the puffy dress says, “Sorry for all the confusion.”

“No problem,” I lie.

“Are you on our email list?” Burly asks me.

“No, I’m not.”

“Can you put your name right here so we can tell you about our other parties.”

I am tempted to laugh in their faces and walk away, but I think, this is the perfect opportunity to get my name/face out there so that other people will recognize me and I don’t have to depend on dropping my brother’s name in order to get into a party. So, I grab the list from Burly, which happens to be open to section of the names that begin with the letter of my last name. Within one second of looking at the list, I see the words “Brown Girl” plain as day in the middle of the page. “Brown Girl.” My name. It’s there. All that hoopla and I was on the list after all, but THREE adults couldn’t find my name on the page.

I scribbled Minnie.Mouse@gmail.com next to my name (which, btw, is NOT my email address) and walked out behind my brother and SIL to find the next party where, hopefully, I wouldn’t have to drop a single name.

Believe it or not, the night actually got a LOT better.

More later…