Friday, March 26, 2010

Guardians Up Above

The Prime Minister of Israel was in town this week to meet with President Obama. From what I could tell, he was staying at the Mayflower, not far from my office. I say this because there were motorcades and security crawling all over the area for several days. Seeing these motorcades swarming as I was walking home from work reminded me of another motorcade from years ago.

My friend, the Australian Adventurer, was in town for a visit. It was a warm spring day, and we were heading down Connecticut Avenue to dinner. We arrived at the intersection of Florida and Connecticut and were stopped by police in the street. A typical Washington occurrance, traffic had been halted to permit a passing motorcade. Police on foot, on motorcycles, and in cars lined the streets. So we waited on the corner until after the motorcaded had gone by and it was clear for us to pass.

One woman who was also waiting with us decided that she'd had enough waiting and ventured out into the intersection to cross the street. The officer standing there waved her back onto the curb to continue waiting. We all stood there waiting for a few more minutes when the same lady decided, again, that she was through waiting. Off she went trying to cross the street in the other direction this time. Again, the officer waved her back to the curb, as he said, "Ma'am, please!" So we waited, still no sign of the motorcade.

Some more time passed and the Hardheaded Woman decided that she was crossing that street come hell or highwater. Only the police officer had other plans. He stepped in front of her and said, "Ma'am get back on the curb!" Then he pointed up and said, "There are snipers on the top of those buildings. And they will Take. You. Out! Get on the curb now! And do not attempt to cross again."

I glanced over at my friend. AA was standing, mouth wide open, looking up at the snipers (which, to be fair, none of us could see). Neither of us could believe what we had heard, and giggled awkwardly, like a couple of elementary school children who had just watched a friend get scolded in class. But that was nothing compared to HW. She seemed particularly jarred, and stood unmoving on the curb. Needless to say, she didn't try to cross the street again.

The motorcade finally came and went (and was fairly anticlimactic after the threat of a sniper shooting in broad daylight Dupont Circle), and we were on our way to dinner. And almost ten years later, AA still recalls with glee that "the Secret Service doesn't mess around."

Interestingly enough, though, I still have yet to see those rooftop snipers that we were warned about. In fact, I'm not even sure there actually were any snipers, but I guess, kind of like God, it's just enough to know they're up there looking down on us all.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fur Is Not Your Friend . . . Or Maybe It Is

The fur is flying in Washington, D.C. this week, my friends. Hard to believe, especially since we've had lovely weather for the past few days. I met my friend PR Pete for lunch today, and as we were sitting in Farragut Square Park eating our lunches, a variety of fashion-challenged individuals walked by. I could spend hours -- days in fact -- talking about the sights we saw, but I'd like to focus specifically on our fine fur-covered friends who were prancing around the park today.

I know that you're hoping that my friend Fur Coat Lady put in an appearance, but FCL was nowhere in sight today. But don't worry . . . there were other optical treats that I hope to adequately describe for you here. One lady walked by, bundled up as if it was December, in an all off-white ensemble, capped off by a pair of fuzzy white Ugg-like boots with pom-pom's dangling off strings around the top. They were stunning. And silly.

But Fuzzy Boots Lady was nothing compared to another gentleman who was loose in the square. He was wearing what was quite obviously a ladies' coat. It was burgundy wool, slightly below the knee, and fitted through the waist. It had a large hood, trimmed in matching burgundy fur. I can't tell you just how fetching it was. But the best part of Burgundy Lady-Coat Man's ensemble was his attitude. He strutted around the square as if he owned it (heck, maybe he does) not the slightest bit self-conscious. His swagger was similar to that of J.J. Evans, and I half expected him to exclaim, "Dy-no-MITE!" as he marched around the park. But he didn't.

PRP and I had a good laugh over our lunchtime entertainment, but little did I know what I would learn later in the day. A news alert arrived in my inbox that rivaled a Saturday Night Live sketch. Apparently, a man in Front Royal, Va., is facing animal cruelty charges for . . . wait for it . . . killing, skinning, and wearing a guinea pig as a hat. His defense? He was well within the "hunter's code" because he killed it "humanely." Last I heard, you didn't have to actually hunt guinea pigs . . . unless by hunt, you mean go to PetSmart and buy one.

Mr. Woodson (that's his name), likened his guinea pig headgear to that of Davy Crockett.

Woodson says the hat was inspired by his admiration of Davy Crockett and that he bought the guinea pig specifically to make the headgear.

“Davy Crockett made a raccoon hat, and that was very popular and delightful and part of his American legend,” he said.

Mr. Woodson, unfortunately, is not a beloved American legend -- yet. His actions, of course, outraged the local guinea pig rescue organization (what, besides Mr. Woodson, do the guinea pigs need rescuing from, I'd like to know?), who disagreed with the hunter's "code" Woodson invoked.

"What this man did was not hunting,” she said. “We don't want people to think that it's OK to go to a pet store, buy a guinea pig, decapitate it, skin it and wear it on your head.”

So let that be a lesson to anyone out there looking for affordable, do-it-yourself fur hats, lay off the guinea pigs. And in case FCL is looking for a lighter, springtime wardrobe, would someone please give her a heads up about the hunter's code.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When the Sun Comes Out, the Clothes Come Off

Spring has sprung in Washington, D.C., and with it a tradition that is as reliable as the cherry blossoms. As soon as the weather changes and the sun comes out, the clothes come off. You would think this was Alaska or something, the way a 60-degree day sparks partial nudity in this city.

Lest I sound like the modesty police, let's just clear up the fact that nobody is looking more forward to flip flop season more than I. I can't wait to shrug off the wool sweaters and bulky coats of winter in favor of sundresses, strappy sandals, and other summer staples. However, I am willing to wait until summer to pull out the tank tops. Not so with many of my compatriots in D.C.

Reveling in the temperate, sunshiny weather, I opted to walk home in lieu of the bus. On the course of my walk, I saw a variety of scantily clad cityfolk. I think it's fair to exclude runners and bikers from my judgement, because at least they were exercising. There was one woman who was wearing a teeny, tiny little skirt with a very high pair of strappy sandals. She was also sporting a sleeveless top. Another guy had on shorts and one of those shirts that no one (regardless of summer heat) should ever wear . . . not quite a wifebeater, but a tank top type shirt with really large arm holes, so as to ensure maximum armpit exposure. There was a lady in short shorts and a sweatshirt -- because there was a chill in the air after all. I know she was chilly because I could see the goosebumps on her legs. And there were others, too. I half expected to see bikini-clad women sunbathing in Dupont Circle.

Call me a curmudgeon, but I just don't get it. As a girl who's always cold, I can't stand to leave the house improperly dressed for the temperature, so I can't fathom why anyone else might choose to. I bundled up this 43-degree morning in my wool coat and a light cotton scarf. Sure, I looked crazy carrying it home, but at least I was comfortable. So as the weather warms into the 70s, you'll easily be able to pick me out on the streets of the city. I'll be the one wearing a scarf.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Happy (Hour) Trails

Walking down the street, I often run into people I know or get stopped by someone for directions. Every so often, I'll have a less-than-normal run in with someone (it is me, after all). I don't mind it, especially because I love it when someone adds a story to my repertoire.

One time, on a summer afternoon, I was rushing down Connecticut Avenue to meet WH for happy hour. A woman stopped me and said in a heavy accent, "Ezcuze me?" "Yes?" I replied. "Are you French?" she asked. Eyebrow raise, "Pardon me?" I thought maybe she wanted to know if I spoke French. No, she wanted to know if I was French, "I said, are you French." "No, sorry," I replied (though I'm not sure what I had to be sorry about). "Oh," she said. "Well you look French to me!" and with that she was off on her merry way. I still don't know what looking French means, exactly, but I choose to believe it means thin, chic, and only slightly pissed off.

Another time I was walking down Connecticut Avenue to happy hour (are you sensing a trend here?) at Timberlake's, when a rather crazy-looking middle-aged woman stopped me, "Hey, did anyone ever tell you that you look like Heidi Fleiss?" Eyebrow raise, "Huh?" "Heidi Fleiss, you know, the Hollywood Madam?" she said. "Yeah," I said. "I know who she is." "Well, you're the spitting image of her. Spitting image." "Uh, no. I've never heard that before." (Considering she's at least 10 years older than I am and rather homely, and also not French, this was pretty insulting to me. Not to mention, the crazy lady sort of looked like Steven Tyler, with a black fringed leather jacket. Of course, I chose not to break the bounds of social norms and tell her that.)

But the real kicker was something that at first I thought was an illusion or maybe a hallucination, but that has recurred enough times that I have decided that I just have to accept it. Have you ever run into someone completely out of context and not really been able to figure out where you know them from, even though you know you recognize who they are? This happened to me not too long ago, when I was . . . guess what . . . walking down Connecticut Avenue going to happy hour. I saw a woman in burgundy and gold Buddhist robes crossing the street. She sure was familiar, but I just couldn't place it. I don't usually run with the Buddhist crowd. She crossed the street and I went on to happy hour still puzzled.

A glass of red wine has the wonderful power to offer a little clarity, and I was about halfway through mine when it hit me who the woman in the robes was. My gynecologist. The realization hit me like a ton of bricks . . . what was she doing? Where was she going? How come I didn't know this about her? Why didn't her office have a more zen appearance to it? I'd been seeing her for the past eight years, sure only once a year or so, but still. I felt a little disappointed that she hadn't shared this part of her life with me, her loyal patient. I mean, realistically, she knew an awful lot about me. Isn't turnabout fair play?

Then I thought about it a little more. Maybe I had made a mistake. Sometimes you see someone and just think they're someone else. That had to be it. I was just seeing things. Except that that wasn't it. I have since seen her in her regalia at least four times since then -- including today. Each time I'm tempted to say something, but what do I say? "Hello Doctor! I didn't know you were a Buddhist?" or "Doctor! Remember me?" or "Hi Doctor! I have these terrible cramps?" I just can't seem to find the right segue from doctor's office to Buddhism. Besides, I often wonder if she'd actually recognize my face. So I let her go on about her Buddhist business, and I make my way to happy hour, secure in the knowledge that eventually I'll see something stranger than my gynecologist dressed as a Buddhist.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Typhoid Tina

I've been laid up with a terrible cold for the past three days. It's about that time of year. And I'm pretty sure I know just how I got this little viral monster: on the bus. In these days of swine flu, hand sanitizers, and coughing into your sleeve, it's practically inevitable that you'll eventually catch something when you're in close quarters with strangers every day. Short of wearing one of those paper masks that I've seen from time to time on the Metro (and that always look ridiculous), I'm not sure what the solution is.

About ten days ago, I squeezed in next to a woman with a sniffle and a raspy cough. Of course I realized it too late. Besides, you never know what might be causing this . . . a cold, a smoking habit, allergies, morning stuffieness, etc. I'm definitely not a germaphobe, but I'm also not a fan of people, particulary in cramped public spaces, openly hacking in my general direction, which this lady was doing -- with no effort made to cover her mouth. And as I sit here cursing that woman, having taken a day off to recouperate and also to avoid infecting anyone else, I wonder what do you do when you're the stuffy, sneezy, cough-y one and you have to be in those close quarters.

It's not just on the bus, either. One time WH and I were flying to California and I got stuck seated next to That Guy, you know the one on every flight with the tuberculitic cough. He sneezed and coughed and wiped his nose on the back of his hand the entire six-hour flight. He also kept trying to talk to me (which is a whole other kind of annoyance, but I'll save it for another time). And ten days later, I was in the same boat (save for the back of the hand thing--I always use a Kleenex).

Another time, I was That Guy. On the return flight from our honeymoon. Having been a victim of high stress (hello, wedding planning) and poor ventilation (who ever thought an air conditioning vent directly over the bed was a good idea?), I ended up with raging ear and sinus infections about halfway through our honeymoon. I could complain, I suppose, especially about the day I woke my new husband up at 6:30 in the morning to take me to the "hospital" on St. John so I could get drugs. (The "hospital" was a tiny little building at the highest point of the island that required we ring a doorbell to get in. There was no doctor on duty, just a couple of haggard looking nurses.) But it was our honeymoon after all, and being sick in paradise is better than being sick anywhere else, I suppose.

Anyway, on the flight back to D.C., I was stuffed up, coughing, and incredible pain. Not to mention, I had one watery eye that was red and puffy as a result of the feeling of perpetual sneeze that kept plaguing me. Remember that part in the wedding vows about sickness and health? Well, this was it. On the descent into National Airport, the changing pressure caused my stuffy ears so much pain (my eardrums actually burst) that tears were rolling down my face and it was all I could do to control myself not to scream. I practically broke WH's fingers squeezing his hand to take my mind off the pain. I was so sick, I can't even remember anything about the people sitting around me, and the looks of horror they were probably shooting me as I sniffled and wheezed.

So tomorrow, when I board the bus in my attempt to head back to work, I'll likely forgo the paper mask, but promise to use a tissue, cough in my sleeve, and try to stay as far from anyone else as is possible. And if you see someone with one watery eye who looks constantly on the verge of a sneeze, you might want to go sit somewhere else.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Take Pity on the Working Man

Last night, after Law & Order, Channel 4 showed a teaser about booze prices going up in Maryland. This set WH off on one of his famous ruminations. It went something like this:

WH: What? First they raise the prices on Metro, and now on booze? What about the miners?
WT: The miners?
WH: Miners, you know, working people.
Hardworking people whose only pleasure in life is having a beer with their buddies.
WT: Miners?
WH: Yes. And factory workers who like to have a couple of Buds with their friends. It's not fair. It's all they have.
WT: What about lawyers?
WH: The lawyers can afford their fancy drinks.
WT: But not the miners?
WH: Why are you mocking me? Why don't you have a little compassion? The workers of this country are being bullied, and it's just too much. When will it stop? First it was the airlines and Metro, and now they want to take their Bud away? It's disgusting!

This went on for some time. WH seemed to be honestly upset about the price hike (which at the time, we didn't know what it would amount to, as we hadn't stayed on the channel long enough to watch the actual story), but the thing with him is, you never can tell when he's joking and when he's being serious. But regardless of whether or not he was being serious, he does raise a good point. When will it be enough? With Metro fares having gone up ten cents this week, and now booze in Maryland likely to go up the same amount, it does make you wonder where you'd like to spend your extra dime. And at the end of the day, I'm with the miners. I choose booze.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Here Comes the Bride(s)

What a day it was today in D.C.! After an up and down period, same sex marriage was finally legalized in the city today. The morning news showed scores of couples lined up outside of the courthouse building ready to apply for marriage licenses. This brought me back to when Wonderful Husband (then Wonderful Fiance) went to apply for our own marriage license.

Anyone who's ever gotten married in this city knows what I'm about to say. The courthouse is not generally happy place. And the Family Court section might be one of the least happy areas. It's so bad that when you arrive at the courthouse, the security guards easily notice you. One said to us, "You must be here about a wedding. Fifth floor." When you're preparing for wedded bliss, you can't imagine that anyone else might not be so happy as you. And then you go to the Family Court section of the D.C. Courthouse.

Upon arriving on the fifth floor, you walk down what WH and I christened "The Hallway of Bad Decisions." Lining the hallway are all the alarms and stop signs that could possibly deter someone from getting married. We walked past the domestic violence unit, the mental health section, the counsel for child abuse and neglect, the paternity and child support branch, domestic relations, juvenile and neglect branch, family treatment court, and, of course, the bail bonds office. Now, I'm not trying to make light of all these very serious problems, but I am still wondering why the Marriage Bureau had to be at the end of a long dark hallway, which required passing them all on the way.

Upon arriving at the Marriage Bureau, you see directly in front of you a very unsturdy trellis adorned with faux roses, ivy, and tulle. It's painted white, of course, and hanging behind it is a sign that says "NO PHOTOGRAPHS!" Once you've applied for your license, you must walk back down The Hallway of Bad Decisions to pay for your paperwork. The door to pay for your license is right next to the bail bonds door. And when you open the door, you walk into one big room with four windows, similar to bank tellers. Three of them are for people bailing out loved ones, and the fourth is for the happy anomaly of people getting married. What, exactly, was the purpose of the two doors?

You don't actually get married the day you apply, you must wait at least three days, and then come back (maybe so you could marinate on what you saw down The Hallway of Bad Decisions?) and if you still want to go through with it after that, then you get to get married. When we returned, we were dragging both sets of parents and siblings, as well as his family and cousins from across this country and abroad. For his family and mine, the D.C. goverment was no big surprise. We all know (and have known for some time) that nothing really makes sense in this city, but his family from out of town (and outside the country) was unawares of what lay before them as we made our way back up to the fifth floor. As we traipsed down The Hallway of Bad Decisions, there were snickers, pointing, and whispering. Clearly we're well matched, as we both come from families full of snark.

Having only been to the outer office of the Marriage Bureau, we had no idea what to expect once we were ushered into the room where the judge would marry us. Nothing particularly interesting. Another trellis with fake flowers, and a podium, where we said our vows and became husband and wife -- but the rest of the room looked, basically like a conference room.

But you know what? Surrounded by our families, taking a step that we had waited a very long time to take, and joining our lives and families together, it didn't matter what the room looked like, what hallway lay before us, or if we were the only happy people in the building. This was the day we had long awaited. So knowing the path that my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters walked this morning, I can only say that despite what was on the road that it took to get to today, I wish for you a day that is happy and a union that is fruitful. Just be sure to ignore The Hallway of Bad Decisions.

Monday, March 1, 2010

How Much is Too Much?

Since starting this blog in January, I've been reflecting on what to share, how to share, and when it's just TMI. But how do you know? Where is the line? I think it's clear that I don't mind sharing embarassing stories (I certainly have my fair share), but to go beyond into intimate details just seems inappropriate. Then again, I'm from a different generation than some of the more prolific sharers, so the question is, when do you share and when do you hold back, and when are you just an old fart who keeps things close to the vest? (Hey did that just sound a little bit like The Gambler - you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em . . .)

I'll admit that I'm an habitual Facebook status updater, and a newly initiated tweeter on Twitter. But I also know that I value my privacy and I surely don't want to cultivate a stalker by oversharing. Many of the statuses (stati?) that I share on Facebook I would never share to the "wide world" on Twitter. At least on Facebook, I've got my pre-screened "friends." Then again, there's the human ego that wants attention, and the inner voyeur in all of us that wants to know what others are up to (why do you think Facebook is so popular?). I know the things that raise my ire in the virtual world . . . potty training photos on Facebook, tweets about bodily functions and doctor appointments (I even read an article recently where a woman "live tweeted" her abortion -- I don't know where the line is, but I'm sure that's over it).

There are some grey areas, though, especially as a woman. Sharing about a delicious meal at a new restaurant after the fact seems like a great idea. It might even spur other recommendations for great places to eat. Sharing that you work on the first floor of the Reagan Building is probably not wise. You don't need to tell the world you're going to be staying at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago from the 4th-7th. I've watched with interest as some of the people that I follow on Twitter share their upcoming location, including address and time for all the world (or their 347 followers) to see. Another Facebook friend with babies, who had very innocently posted their picture as her profile photo got a creepy message from someone she didn't know commenting on her kids. No more baby pictures for her.

So, maybe I've watched too much Nancy Grace, or maybe you just never really know who's watching with interest where you'll be drinking this evening. Sure, most people online are totally benign and willing to help you out when you need advice for a new hotsopot to hang out. But in these days of oversharing and instant gratification, it just stands to reason that someone who shares too much is asking for trouble. Or at the very least, asking for a very large therapy bill for their poor kid who's potty training pics are now circulating the internet.