BECAUSE I CARE 


When the extent of your Tuesday-morning post-tsunami philanthropy is an early chatty lunch at a Thai restaurant, cracking tasteless jokes and drowning them in tofu, squid and peanut oil, perhaps it's time to realign your chakras into something a little more heart-y and a little less ironic. Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't care, because I do – it's just that I'm so predisposed to levity in any and all situations that to pull a Debbie Downer invoking the tragic death of 150,000 people would seem about as sincere as the president sending his dim brother over to Thailand to assess unfathomable infrastructural damage. I would hate to come off as insincere. So instead, I fade out into the soft-rock intonations of midday Asian-restaurant background-music ooze, and find peace there.

"This sounds like the Carpenters," I doze into my pad thai. "So, it's like Kirin Carpenter!"

Not funny. Even less funny? The fact that we collectively, if creatively, deduce that the voice overhead is singing, "There's something on my diaper … and I don't know what it is." Oh, the laughter. Oh, the nervous laughter of miscreants charged by fecal humor and little else, reveling in moments of pure genius.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the end of my day will be nightcapped by some sort of philanthropic whiplash. Jessica Young has invited me to the inaugural meeting of the local chapter of Architects for Humanity, a non-profit based out of the northeast that assembles resources to, um, build things so that people might feel better, or something. It all sounds very heavy to me, so I do my faux-journalist best to prepare myself for skyscraping the highbrow. Naturally, I take a little prep time gazing at my mug in the bathroom mirror, at least partially because architects are always cute.

"How rococo!" I draw my chin to the floor, leaving a giant 'o' at the end for presentational effect.

"Frank Lloyd Wright?" I lower my imaginary spectacles to the very tip of my nose. "You cannot be serious."

"The difference between Mediterranean architecture and Spanish Colonial architecture," I press my fingers to my temples. "It's like apples and assholes."

OK, I'm ready. I suck in my cheeks for maximum bone structure and head out into the evening's promising blueprint: Tonight, I will be an adult. Oh, wait. This is Orlando.

At the Peacock Room, then, apples and assholes alike are casually converging upon the show room, taking their places along the amorphous, couched periphery for either an overaged foray into spin-the-bottle or an AA meeting. I pull up a chair next to some seemingly important acquaintances-in-liquor, Claire and Leslie (because Jessica, my sponsor, is late), and we begin to discuss the really important topics of global well-being.

"I didn't see you at Club Paris, but J. Lo did," Claire Claires cryptically. J. Lo is somebody named Jason, but I prefer to imagine that it was the so-two-years-ago Puerto Rican wide-hips that noted my presence. "My favorite part was when they got on the microphone and said that Paris had missed her connection in Switzerland. Her connection, right?"

Right. Former mayor-to-be Pat Greene is, tellingly, the whole catalyst for this particular project – mostly because he likes particular projects – and he immediately gets into eighth-grade icebreaker mode.

"Let's go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves," he youth-camps. "Billy?"

"My name's Billy Manes, I'm, um, 32 and …" I start sweating. "I love seahorses!"

I don't really, but it gets a laugh, and that's just what every super-serious collective of outwardly thinking liberals needs to make sure that nothing gets accomplished, right? Right. The bottle spins 'round the room as individuals grumble their names and, in some cases anyway, their positions in society. There are some urban planners, hairdressers, television producers, students, self-proclaimed "losers," one architect (a girl! Hmph.) and a teacher.

"I'm a Scorpio!" she teaches.

"Ooooh, a sexy teacher then," I misguidedly throw my voice. This is going nowhere.

Jessica finally walks in and introduces herself as my editorial superior, I reintroduce myself as her temporary tattoo, and things settle into a general cacophony of public interest ranging from locally to globally whirled peas, or something. Me, I'm busy tuning into the other room (the bar!) blaring architectural '80s optimism – Thompson Twins, OMD and Duran Duran – and I feel like I'm totally ditching social studies. Somebody talks about building boats, somebody else talks about a giant Asian ice-white glass sculpture, and others hover around the hurricanes.

"Wouldn't it be better if we had a laptop or something?" I throw myself in the melee for no apparent reason. "And maybe had a plan?"

"Mr. Practicality!" scoffs Jessica.

"Ah, an idiot savant!" Pat Greene strokes his beard, ineffectively.

"No, just an idiot," I glare back.

And then, from behind, some anger-infested youth with Fugazi tendencies smacks me over my complacent head with a bit of humanitarian gibberish, albeit angry humanitarian gibberish.

"We're all here because we care, and we have to do something …" he stammers, offering nothing save a little bit of misguided pathos. "Just my two cents."

To make my point, I make my two cents into 20 dollars and throw it into the donation envelope, while the rest of the do-gooders discuss whether to potluck or not to potluck.

"A bake sale," offers Jessica to my left ear, suspiciously. I don't bake. "You can do wonders with a bake sale. It all depends on what you wear."

And, I suppose, whether you care. And I do. I swear.

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