Thursday, May 27, 2010

WashingTina Abroad

WH and I are off on vacation for a bit . . . so WashingTina will be quiet for a bit.  But don't fret.  I'll return from our sojourn with stories aplenty (and even though they won't be D.C.-focused, will still appear here).  Meantime, have a look back at some of my favorites from days past:

Marshal Plan

Moon Over Washington

Looking Up


One of Those Days

Going for the Gold

Here Comes the Brides

Happy (Hour) Trails

My Favorite Kind of Politics

All the World's a Staged Apartment

Toying With Us


Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Last Friday I pulled a good one! I absolutely love surprises. Love them! On other people. I am no fan of being surprised (and thus, rarely am). In fact, I usually read the end of a book first just to make sure I'm going to like the ending (sacrilege to my literature professors) and because I don't want any unpleasant surprises ruining things. But for other people, I love them! I have been trying to surprise WH for years, but never seem to be able to do it. For his birthday and Christmas he asks, very specifically, for things that he wants which I dutifully purchase for him. So he's been sadly surprise-deprived lo these many years. Until last week . . .

A colleague at work had forwarded along an email that Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert were going to be doing a talk at the Warner Theater, and knowing WH's love for Tony, in particular, I promptly purchased tickets. I waffled a bit when it came to choosing the ticket level, because for a mere $100 more, we could attend a "meet and greet reception" with Bourdain and Ripert. I opted not to purchase this option, as we were saving for vacation. I told WH to reserve the date, but nothing else. For a month he's been fuming over what we could be doing.

That night we went to Ceiba for dinner, starting with cocktails and appetizers at the bar. WH was about to start twitching.

WH: Who are the other six people?
WT: What do you mean?
WH: When we checked in at the desk, you said, "WashingTina for six."
WT: Six o' clock.
WH: Oh! Okay. Is this an intervention?
WT: Yes. In a bar.
WH: Is Arnold having dinner with us?
WT: Arnold? No.

And on it went. Finally, I had to tell him to just chill out and enjoy himself, otherwise he'd spoil his dinner. After dinner we walked the two blocks to the theater and there it was on the marquis, plain as day. WH's face lit up like a Christmas tree. But he was still unsure of what was going on. "What does that mean? Are they going to be showing the show in the big screen? I just don't understand what it means?" I refused to say. As we were getting our tickets taken, there was some problem so we were sent to Will Call. This is where our luck turned. 

We were given a form that listed our seats and would suffice as a ticket. The ticket taker back at the door looked at the ticket for a minute and then asked what I paid for them. When I told her, she promptly gave us both wristbands for the "VIP meet and greet after the show." Score! We had lucked into the special reception! WH, already having gotten the surprise of his life, didn't realize this wasn't part of the plan. It was my turn to be surprised, which I explained to him. We really enjoyed the talk.  Bourdain and Ripert were a perfect compliment for each other (more on this to come in future blogs). 

 Meanwhile, the "reception" consisted of $7 glasses of wine and a line to wait in for a book signing.  I was sure glad I hadn't forked over the extra $100.  As is the way it goes with these things, we were unprepared: no camera. Why would we have needed one? Fortunately, a nice lady in front of us had a camera and a little bartering later, she agreed to take our picture if we'd take one of her (she later emailed it to us).  We got our picture taken and had our book signed.  WH asked Tony if he had any tips for our upcoming trip to Prague.  "Pork," he said, "eat lots of pork."  And with that it was over.  We were on our way. 

As we left the theater that night, I reflected on how great it felt to do something so unexpected for WH.  And maybe, just maybe the universe provided the extra treat of meeting two of our food heroes to prove to me that I really do like surprises after all . . . for myself.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stargazing Washington Style

D.C. may not be New York or Los Angeles, but we certainly get our fair share of celebrities in the city from time to time. Angelina regularly testifies on Capitol Hill and Anna Nicole had her case tried before the Supreme Court, and during the inauguration everyone from M.C. Hammer to Bono to Beyonce was in town. I have christened myself one of the foremost celeb spotters in the Washington-Metropolitan area. I can be walking down the street and faster than I'd recognize my own mother, I'd recognize Felicty Huffman and William H. Macy (and, in fact, I have). In this city, what we consider a "star" is a little different than other places. A nerdy sighting like Cokie Roberts at lunch (yup, had one of those too), a street-crossing George Stephanopoulos (seen him), or John McCain in Chinatown (that one, too) gets us as excited as spotting Arnold Schwartzenegger and Maria Shriver (yeah, them too--and they're a bonus sighting because they qualify as both Hollywood and Washington). A politico or a newser is as much cause for celebration as any other.

I'm too big of a chicken to ever actually approach any of these celebrities, as WH will attest, since I ususally make him follow them down the street (my apologies to Rachel Griffiths). The time WH and I ran into Arnie and Maria, I wasn't the starstruck one. WH loves Arnold. When he came out of the cigar shop on M Street in Georgetown, stepping directly into our path, WH grabbed my hand, squeezed it till my knuckles popped, and said, "It's him!" And then we followed them until they disappeared into Pottery Barn.

I can relate to WH's tongue-tied-ness. You see, once I met Hillary Clinton and, well . . . read on. We were sitting in Dupont Circle one summer day, when we noticed a big line outside of Books-A-Million. Never wanting to miss out on something exciting, I insisted we walk over to find out what was going on. Turns out Hillary was doing a book signing. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, so we got in line to wait to meet Hillary.

The whole time we were waiting, I was twitchy. I chattered away about nonsense while WH, always the trooper, listened to my blathering. As we got closer to the front of the line, I could see the former First Lady. She was chatting happily with each person as they approached to get their book signed. I couldn't wait for my turn. She told the girl in front of us, who happened to have very curly hair, "My daughter has hair just like yours!"

Then, suddenly, it was my turn. And boy did I choke. "Hi!" she said. Nothing. I had nothing. If she had asked my name, I wouldn't have known what to say. My brain was going a mile a minute, but no words were coming to mind. Hillary looked at WH, who said, "I'm with her." And before we knew what was happening, my turn was over. And that's when it hit me . . . every woman loves a compliment on her clothes, so I turned back and said, "Senator, love your suit!" She smiled graciously and went back to her signing.

I was feeling a little better that I had managed to say something, even if it was something kind of dumb, at the last minute. That was until WH burst my bubble.

WH: Did you just 'Hannibal Lechter' Hillary Clinton?

WT: What? What do you mean?

WH: You know, that scene in Silence of the Lambs where he compliments the Senator on her suit? Right after she says, "Take this thing back to Baltimore."

WT: Oh no. Oh no. I Hannibal Lechter-ed Hillary Clinton.

WH: Yeah, you're probably on some Secret Service watchlist now.

WT: Oh god. Oh no.

And there you have it, my shining moment of glory. I will say this, though. When I met her husband a few years later, I was prepared. I had my three sentences memorized so I wouldn't choke this time. And I didn't . . . but my boss, who was with me at the time sure did. She giggled girlishly when asked her name, and then after we walked away from our photo op, told me, "You know, he was just my size." Yeah, she's 5'4". He's easily ten inches taller than her. But let that be a lesson to you, should you be cruising the streets of Washington (or your own city) and run into someone famous, be sure you have a speech memorized, because otherwise you might Hanibal Lechter your hero. Unless, of course, it's Anthony Hopkins . . . in which case you can Hannibal Lechter Hannibal Lechter.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why Be Normal?

Sometimes I wonder, am I the only normal person on the planet? There are days when I feel like the whole world is crazy and I'm the only one who makes sense. But if that's the case, does that make me, in fact, abnormal? You see, sometimes I have these conversations with my friends and family where they say things and I just wonder, "Where on earth did you come up with that?" We already know WH is prone to thoughtful musings, but there are others in my life who often surprise me.

My friend the Gay Lawyer and I were talking the other day. I was telling him about a particularly eggregious smell that I encounter on a regular basis. He informed me that I should keep a little jar of Vick's handy so that I can quickly put a little under my nose to avoid the smell, because that's what they do "in the morgue." I'm not sure how he knows this, other than from watching Silence of the Lambs (yeah, I remember that scene, too).

Then there's my sister. She has an unnatural fear of little people. Not children, I mean, but Little People (midgets, in the vernacular). I can still remember a phone call from her while she was in college. "There's a midget at my school. I saw him in the cafeteria and had to leave before I passed out." You'll be happy to know she eventually did overcome her fear, sort of. She actually talked to the kid at her school and stopped being afraid . . . of him. But make her watch a movie with Vern Troyer and she starts to sweat.

Another famous story in our family is the time, when why the ketchup wasn't on the table, my mother declared, "Ketchup? Who ever heard of putting ketchup on a burger?" Uh, everyone? To this day, we can't enjoy a hamburger without waxing philosophical about ketchup, much to my mother's chagrin.

And while I reflect on all the oddities of my friends and family, I also remember a time on Metro when I myself pulled a weird one out of hat. I was riding during an off time, and this woman sat down next to me. She kept looking at me, but I ignored her because I don't make friends when I ride public transportation (and neither should you!). Finally she caught my eye and told me she wanted to talk to me about my personal relationship with Jesus. "We're not all that close," I wanted to tell her, but knew this would result in a much longer converation and all I wanted to do was shut her down. Clearly she had not heard the old adage about not talking religion or politics, especially with people you don't know.

It was going to take something really good to make her stop. And then inspiration hit me like a ton of bricks! This happened to be the same week that Pope John Paul II had died, so I called on my years of acting classes and a little old-fashioned Catholic guilt (which I have also had years of). "I'm sorry," I told her, "you see, I'm a Catholic and I'm just so broken up about the Pope that I can't talk about it right now." And then I eked out one single tear. It was miraculous. The Orange Line Evangelist shut her Bible and gave me a knowing look, "I understand." Uh, no, I don't think you do. And for just a moment I felt evil, until I realized what a great actress I am and got over it (take that Meryl Streep).

So, while I don't randomly rattle off hints from the coroner's office, balk at the site of Tatoo from Fantasy Island, or only put mustard on my hamburger, maybe I'm not exactly normal. But isn't that what makes the world much more interesting? I know it's certainly made my world a more entertaining place. And maybe normal is overrated after all.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Toying With Us

The other night, Wonderful Husband informed me that he thinks he's having a midlife crisis in his thirties. It seems he's been surfing eBay in search of toys he had during his childhood. I can relate to that, as neither of us has access to our childhood homes anymore, both sets of parents having long since vacated. In my case, a select group of toys are now sitting in a giant bag in our storage unit in the basement. In his case, the toys were lost in a move. And so, he has found himself on eBay, trying to "reclaim what once belonged to me."

WH has been fascinated by what he's found. In particular, he's been confused by the pristine toys that are in mint condition, still in the box. Here's how the conversation went down:

WH: I don't understand. Who was that kid whose mother bought them a toy and they kept it in a box? What kind of weirdo was that kid?

WT: I never really thought about it.

WH: Well I have, and it raises two questions. First of all, if the toy was so precious that you didn't take it out of the box, why the hell are you selling it now? And secondly, if you're selling it now, you obviously don't care about it anymore, so don't you wish you could have played with it as a kid? That 50 bucks is more important to you now?

WT: Hmm, I don't know.

WH: I have a hard time believing that some kid begged his mom to buy him that toy, and then when she got it and told him to go play with it, he said, "No, mommy, I'm going to keep it in a box so that when I grow up, I can sell it on eBay." I personally never had any friends that, when I went to their house to play, their toys were still in the box!

WT: No, I guess me neither.

WH: And I can prove to you that these people who still have their toys in the box are still virigins. I'm sure they have the same mentality when it comes to girls, they don't want to unwrap them. They just want the latest action figure.

WT: You may be right about that.

WH: I mean, you just want to say to these people, "You stupid freak. You never had any emotional attachment to that toy because it never came out of the box. No wonder you're selling it now."

WH does have a point. Now that he's mentioned it, who were those kids who kept their toys in the box? Or maybe it was some sadistic mother who wouldn't let the kid play with the toy because they had to "keep it nice." Either way, I guess it's a good thing someone saved all of that crap, because otherwise eBay would have no reason to exist. Which reminds me, there's an Easy Bake Oven I've had my eye on for some time now . . .

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Suction's the Thing

I love TV. I watch it. A lot. I watch all kinds of shows, and I'm generally not that discriminating about what is on. I don't have a DVR, so I always watch the commercials too. And I love them. The good, the bad, and the ugly. As I've said before, I think I'm a frustrated ad executive underneath it all.

For some time now I've been absolutely fascinated with the Dyson commercials. I'm sure you know the ones I'm talking about. The one where Mr. Dyson talks about his obsession with suction.

I find his passion for dust removal both hilarious and commendable. Think about it. Here's a guy who has spent years of his life doing nothing but thinking about dust, suction, and flawed vacuum cleaners. I mean, the guy made 2,000 prototypes just to get the sucking right. Can you imagine what he's like at parties? I imagine conversation with him goes something like this:

Party Goer: Hi, I'm Debbie.
Dyson: Hello, Debbie. I'm James.
PG: So, James, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Dyson: Well, I've spent years thinking about suction. I'm very concerned about dust. You see, a regular vacuum just doesn't have the proper suction. It clogs because of the technology, but I've developed this cyclonic technology to remedy that.
PG: Oh, wow.
Dyson: I'm also very concerned about the traditional vacuum's maneuverability. The four wheels and a fixed axel just don't make sense. It really is a wonder we've put up with it for all these years. That's why I created the Dyson Ball. It pivots easily, making clean up a snap.
PG: I think my martini is running low.
Dyson: I've been knighted by the Queen.
PG: I'm going to need some dip . . .

And God forbid if someone spills something at the party. Mr. Dyson, sorry Sir Dyson, is probably the first to try to clean it up. "Does anyone have a vacuum," he would yell across the party. Hopefully the host would have a Dyson, but what if they didn't? Can you imagine the turmoil? "What is this rubbish? There's no suction! I can't maneuver this clunky behmoth! Get me a broom!" It would be a disaster.

The lesson in all of this, I suppose, is the sticktuitiveness of Sir Dyson and his spectacular suction (that sounds like a Broadway musical). If you believe in your dreams (of eradicating the planet of dust), you too might someday get to meet the Queen.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Truth in Advertising?

I've been sick for the past week, which has resulted in a lot of home time, alone with the television. As anyone who watches a lot of TV (particularly during the daytime) will tell you, advertising can really make or break a product. For instance, every time Jennifer Love Hewitt talks about how Proactiv solution saved her skin, I want to get out my credit card and order immediately. I'm also completely mesmerized by Space Bags -- those plastic bags where you suck out the air with your vaccuum and miraculously a giant comforter is smushed down to pancake size.

There are a couple of commercials that, every time I see them, I wonder how the advertising agencies that came up with them are still in business. For instance, the folks at Geico. They seem to have multiple personalities, if you ask me. First they had the cute little British gecko. Then they turned it up a notch with the angry cavemen (while still using the gecko). Then there was that strange money with eyes glued to it that popped up while "Somebody's Watchin' Me" played in the background (but still keeping the gecko and the cavemen). Call me crazy, but I thought you were only supposed to have one mascot. Can you imagine if high schools went by this school of thought? My how that would confuse the cheerleaders: "Go Panth . . . Wildca . . . Dolphins?!?!"

I'm also not a fan of the Charmin commericials where the bear does his business up against a tree and then gets toilet paper fuzz stuck to his butt. There are just so many things wrong with that commercial, I can't help but be turned off. But the absolute worst are the Mucinex commericals. You know these commericals . . . they're the ones where the giant green blob of snot comes with his suitcases to settle into your sinuses. In the best of these worst commercials, the blob paints the walls of your bronchi with green mucus. Having been on a Mucinex high for most of the week, I can attest to the fact that it does work. But I choose to buy it in spite of the commercials and not because of them, simply because they are the grossest, most awful advertising tools I've ever seen.

These commercials are not great, but the ones that are really bad are the local commericals that look like they've been produced in someone's basement. In this area, there's Crystal Koons, who has been peddling Toyotas long past her expiration date, with her trademark phrase, "We're gonna wow, ya!" It's kind of sad, too, because you can just tell by her enthusiasm that she has been hoping that this would be her big acting break and her next step would be as the next housewife on Wisteria Lane.

Anther one that always gives me a giggle are the "Kiss My Bumper" commericials for Senate Insurance. I'm not even sure what "Kiss My Bumper" means, but it always reminds me of Flo from Mel's Diner, who always said, "Kiss mah, grits!" Still, the commericals are so poorly done, it's hilarious.

There's also the slew of local attorneys that have some very dramatic commercials, discussing mesothelioma, car accident injuries, and other types of negligence. This, of course, appeals to the people who are presumably home in the afternoon recovering from their workplace slip and fall. The very best of the best of these is the commercial for Mike Slocumb. In one of his commercials, he has William Shatner (who is also featured prominently on the website) giving his seal of approval. You know, William Shatner who got all of that real-world legal experience on Boston Legal. I know when I'm looking for a lawyer, I often think to myself, "Who would William Shatner recommend." And here's the answer . . . Mike Slocumb. But this is still not the best of the best that Mike has to offer. The very best (and try as I might, I couldn't find a clip to show here) shows some gray-haired men sitting around a smoke-filled room, very 1975 soap opera, discussing a case. One lawyer says to the other, "Who's the lawyer on this case?" The other lawyer looks stricken, there's a zooming sound effect, and he says, "Mike Slocumb." And the first lawyer says, "Let's settle this thing!" Settle indeed.

And so, as my sick week draws to a close, I'm thinking that I may look into an alternate career path as an advertising executive. My first order of business will be to make Geico choose just one mascot. You with me?