Friday, November 23, 2007

Reflections upon a Bust of Mao

Back when I was still in school, my buddy Laz went on vacation to China with his family. When he came back, he brought me a little alabaster bust of Mao Zedong as a souvenir. It was a little dirty, about two inches tall, and had a real quaint “Red China” aura to it. I was still living in a dorm at the time, and I put the little stone bust on my bookshelf. I had a small menagerie of communist paraphernalia from a trip to Cuba that I had made, and the Chairman fit right in among it. I lived on the 9th floor of a high-rise dormatory, and shortly after acquiring the bust, I was at a function at the bar and grill on the second floor of the dorm. I was enjoying my drink, and I found myself talking to an attractive med student. Her name escapes me now, but I recall that she was very involved in that “doctors without borders” bringing medicine to the third-world scene. And somehow we ended up talking about communism. And I said to her: “You know, I’ve got a Bust of Mao in my room.” And she said she’d like to see it. And I said OK, and we went up to my room, and from Mao, the conversation drifted to my CD collection, and I put on some music, yada yada, and we ended up hooking up. It all happened so fast, and was so serendipitous; I thought something like that would never happen again. And then it did. A couple of more times. And it got so that the “Bust of Mao” achieved talismanic status in my head. At the time, I didn’t understand why it worked – in fact, I sort of thought it might be a lot like Dumbo’s Magic Feather, and maybe I could do the same thing without the reference to the dead Chinese Chairman. I was only partly right.

Once I got out of school, and got my own place, the “Bust of Mao” reference never helped again. I still have the little statue, but by and large women in their thirties don’t talk about communism and idealism and crap like that.

In 2001, right after September 11th, my friend Webster was visiting me from out of town, and we were at the tavern next door to my apartment complex at the time. We were drinking at the bar and we noticed two passably-cute girls at a booth eating dinner. We wanted to send them a drink, and debated doing so, made eye contact with them two or three times, and finally approached. Web is smoother than I am, I guess, because after a couple of minutes of chit-chat he tells the two girls that I have a bottle of absinthe at my place and asks would they like to try it. That night merits a whole blog entry, but both girls – complete strangers to us before that night – came back to my apartment with us.

In September 2003, I flew to Vegas for Frankie’s birthday party. On the flight I sat next to a pretty girl, and we ended up exchanging numbers. About three weeks later, we met up at an Applebee’s for drinks on a Monday night. In passing I mentioned that the day before I had made a candle out of an old stone inkpot and some liquid paraffin. She said that sounded interesting, and I said I lived less than half a mile away if she wanted to see it, and she came over, and literally, within 15 minutes of walking into my place she was topless on my couch. Life is good sometimes.

It wasn’t until I was nearly thirty years old that it dawned on me how the Bust of Mao principle worked, and I realized that my Bust of Mao was no more magical than a bottle of exotic liquor or a homemade candle. The magic in all three was in what wasn’t said during the discussion about them.

In March of 2006, I was in Puerto Vallarta for a conference at the Westin resort there. The last night of the conference, I found myself drinking and talking with a pretty young lady from Chicago who was there to check folks in and oversee logistics, etc. We were drinking mai tai after mai tai, and were both drunk enough to make some bad decisions when the bar closed. There was definitely a spark, and sufficient nonverbal communication to signal the green light. But when they announced last call, and it was clearly the end of the night, I wished I had brought my Bust of Mao with me. Asking her straight to my room seemed so gauche, and we bade each other an awkward good night, as our rooms were in different directions from the bar. As I lay awake in my bed that night alone in such a romantic locale, with the sound of the ocean in the background, I kicked myself for being such a fumbling fool. On the flight back, I had one of those “What I should have said” moments, and it all made sense to me.

The magic of the Bust of Mao is that it gives an excuse for cutting away from the herd, so to speak. I’ve never met a woman who would respond positively to “Hey, do you want to go back to my place and fuck?” I’m sure she exists out there, but even if she does, she is definitely in a very small minority of women. Society just frowns too much on that sort of openness and honesty. Likewise, pretty much anybody, male or female, would follow you home if you said: “Hey, I’ve got two lottery tickets at my place, and one is guaranteed to win a million dollars; I’ll let you have your choice of the two if you want.” The Bust of Mao passes the “laugh out loud” test for why you’d be coming back to someone’s place, but is just banal enough to convey the message that “I’ve got a bit more than a stupid little statue there.” I remember my friend Jacob asking a girl in our dorm (now his wife) “do you want to come listen to me play my harmonica?” In reality, nobody wants to hear a dude play a harmonica, and a homemade candle is interesting for like one minute, maybe.

That night in Puerto Vallarta, I didn’t need the Bust of Mao; I needed a Bust of Mao: “the night view out my window is spectacular; you’ve got to come see it,” or something like that. I live and learn.

3 comments:

TeacherBee said...

My favorite post so far. I'm glad the light came on for you... we don't care about busts, we care about excuses to come back to your room, you know, so we don't seem so much like whores.

Jack Gordon said...

Teacherbee, your comment cracked me up, given your Blogger name and icon. Awesome.

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