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  • Writer's pictureGreg

Man in Black

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

Having recently relocated to the Washington DC area to follow my diplomat wife—again—I'm reminded of the last time we lived here: the kids were little; I was a full-time homemaker; and Dana was learning French at the Foreign Service Institute. I also met a guy in a black turtleneck. Read about it below in an excerpt from Kept: An American Househusband in Paris, which will be released in winter of 2023. I hope you enjoy it.

A middle-aged man sidles up to me and orders an Appletini. He is wearing a black turtleneck—a dead giveaway, in retrospect—and eyes me askance. We are in Vienna—Virginia, not Austria—at a party hosted by my Uncle Ted and Aunt Shirley, DMV—DC, Maryland, Virginia—power couple. Uncle Ted and Aunt Shirley name-check Colin Powell, decorate with exotic animal skins and throw great parties.

“Hi, Greg. I’m Ken,” Black Turtleneck says. “I understand you’ve spent time abroad.”

Interesting, since I don’t know Ken from Adam, but, whatever. I tell him my life story. Then we talk of global politics and current affairs. He is well-versed and takes a keen interest in what I have to say.

“But what about you, Ken,” I ask. “What do you do?”

“I’m an author,” he says.

“How interesting. I dabble a little myself.”


Ken hands me his card. The front reads only “Ken.” On the back are images of three books with lots of fire, guns, and beefy men in silhouette.

“It’s rare I find someone so interesting to talk to,” he says. “Do you mind if I give you a call sometime? Maybe we can chat further.”

“Uh … sure.”

Ken excuses himself, and I tell the bartender I guess I’ll try an Appletini.

I find Dana. She’s major league preggo at this point and nursing her aching back. Just like the first time around, she looks like she’s swallowed a basketball.

“Wow,” she says. “That guy was really into you.”

“For real. I think I was just asked out on a date.”

The next day a woman calls while Nina (2) and I are folding laundry.

“Mr. Buford," the woman says. "I wonder if I can ask you a few questions.”

Ugh. A survey. I hate these things. They always say it’ll be two minutes, and it ends up taking ten. I know this for a fact. I once conducted surveys in a shopping mall; we had to say it’d take two minutes, but it always took ten, at least. But since this might be the only adult conversation I get today, I play along.

“Alright, alright. I’ll do your survey. Just don’t tell me it’s going to take two minutes.” She needs to know she's not dealing with a chump.

Nina shrieks with laughter and destroys our stack of folded laundry. Hilarious.

“Who is the US National Security Adviser?” the woman asks.

What an odd survey ... “Condoleezza Rice,” I say.

Nina does a major face-plant. I grab her up and race through my repertoire of funny faces. Nina tears up but doesn’t lose it.

“Thank you. Could you tell me the name of the prime minister of Canada, the UK, or India?”

Something stinks—bad. I grimace and put Nina down. “Uh, let’s see, Jean Chretien, Tony Blair, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, respectively.”

“Thank you. One would have sufficed. What can you tell me about Jonas Savimbi?”

“The Angolan revolutionary? The one who just got killed?”

Nina has taken off her diaper and is painting the wall with its contents.

“Thank you,” the caller says. “If you're interested in a job opportunity, please go to the Hilton Arlington at 9 a.m. on Friday, February 22 and attend the meeting of the Amalgamated Plumbers Local #34. Ken sends his regards."

"Ken? Oh, Ken from the party?"

"And, Mr. Buford," she says, "make sure you don't tell anyone. Good-bye."

To be continued...

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