Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Dark and Smelly Night

Wonderful Husband and I went to the beach this past weekend with Party On and The Funny Man (does that sort of remind you of Chico and the Man?).  Anyone familiar with the drive from D.C. to Rehoboth knows that it's often a treat for the senses.  For the uninitiated, you drive past a lot of chicken farms and through rural landscapes. It's not beyond the pale to smell some form of stink (often lingering) as you drive down the two-lane roads. 

This is as good a time as any to point out that Party On is averse to any mention of poop (she also does not tolerate "fart" or "douchebag").  And while I'm not particularly an embracer of the scatalogical, it does make it difficult to make certain allusions from time to time.  (On a side note, I will say I have my doubts about her aversion.  This is the same woman who once passed around a photo of her cat's dingleberry during happy hour, so grossing out the Gay Lawyer, that he refused to open picture messages from her for months after.) So you can imagine the dismay when, as we were driving down Route 404,  we were hit with what might be one of the foulest stenches in recent memory.  But first we encountered skunk stink (or at least I was told we did . . . I was stuffed up from a cold/bronchitis, so I couldn't smell anything), perhaps as an omen of what lie ahead.

Just as everyone was recovering from the skunk stink, we hit what WH referred to as "a rainbow of stink." It started out fairly mild (from what I'm told), and grew as we drove deeper into what I can only imagine was a cloud of green steam.  Party On was beside herself.  To his credit, TFM was able to maintain control of the car as we barrelled down the road, deeper and deeper into the smell.  As Party On contorted herself in the front seat, moaning from the horror of it all, WH shifted into comic mode.  He declared that the growing smell was "like bad wine tasting, it starts out weaker and grows stronger as you go on." It was about this time that my sinuses opened up (thanks for nothing, Mucinex!) and the smell hit me too. And it was as bad as they said.  My own take on it was that it smelled like we were hauling a dead body in 100-degree heat after it had been sitting in the trunk for six days.  It was seriously gag-worthy. 

Party On had her head stuffed inside her shirt.  WH's eyes were watering.  And I was wishing for my cold to return with a vengeance.  All the while, TFM kept on driving (probably in the hopes that the faster he went, the faster we'd exit the danger zone).  WH declared, "Jesus!  If you gave a cow three bottles of tequila this is the smell you would get!"  And on we drove.  He then announced, "If anyone has to fart, now would be the time. Nobody will be able to tell and blame you for it."  Party On writhed and wretched up front.  What felt like 20 minutes was probably closer to seven.  It was bad. And poor Party On had to listen to the rest of us discussing poop for at least the ensuing half hour (and the rest of the weekend). 

We went into the dark that night, my friends, and came out different on the other side.  We smelled the "spectrum" (as WH put it) of stink and miraculously survived.  But perhaps the most telling was that skunk we met at the outset.  WH observed, "That skunk came through that green cloud and died on the other side to warn us of what was ahead. We just didn't listen." No, we didn't.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trendy Tricked Out Trucks

What can I say?  I like a little alliteration (hey, look at that, I did it again).  I also like a trend.  Not all trends, though.  I mean, I haven't jumped on the Bieber bandwagon, I don't watch any of the Real Housewives shows, and I still don't have an iPhone. But one trend I have latched onto with both of my hands (and my teeth) is the food truck.  D.C. has been innundated with them this summer, and I couldn't be happier. We've been introduced to the pizza truck, a curry truck, a "global cuisine" truck, and even a cupcake truck (talk about double dipping in the trend pool -- the only thing trendier than a food truck in D.C. is a cupcake -- heck, there's even a show about it).  And so, while I usually leave the food blogging to my friends over at I Flip For Food (which you should be reading for great recipes and restaurant reviews, by the way), I couldn't resist weighing in on this growing trend.

Farragut Square, near my office, is a prime location for the trucks to park during lunch. According to the food truck tracker (yeah, there's an app for that--or there isn't--I don't know, I said I don't have an iPhone), D.C. currently has 13 food trucks with five more on the way. Today may have been the climax of the food truck fun, with the debut of the lobster truck. Yeah, you read that right, lobster. From a truck. Lest you think the truck is Uncle Bubba's cowboy Cadillac, let me paint a picture for you . . . the lobster truck has an LCD TV and soda fountain mounted on the side of it and it takes credit card payment via iPad. It's one helluva vehicle. (To be fair, the pizza truck has an oven inside, ensuring fresh pizza at a moment's notice. These are not your father's Oldsmobile.)

For weeks, the city (or at least Twitter and the blogosphere) has been abuzz with anticipation of the arrival of the lobster truck.  And I'll be the first to admit I bought into the hype. Last Friday was supposed to be the kickoff, but glitches kept it off the road (and out of our tummies!).  Then we had a near miss on Tuesday, when the truck's Twitter feed declared that they were rolling out only to be stymied by something or other.  Yes, the lobster truck punked us that day and I went sadly back to my desk, lobster-less, to eat a Lean Cuisine.  Yesterday's monsoon did not make for optimal lobster weather, so today was the big day!  By 11:30, the line was down the block. I got a text from my sister saying, "They're selling lobster out of a truck and there are all these people in line."  Clearly she had not gotten the memo. 
Photo courtesy of @davecarson

I had already made plans to eat at 1:00, so when I heard about the lobster rush, I was worried they might run out before I was served.  A coworker headed over to get in line around noon.  Another friend and I went out to join him at 1:00 and the line was still nearly a block long, but he had made a little headway.  Just as we got there, some industrius (read greedy) soul decided to scalp her lobster roll for $20.  Right next to the truck. There's one in every crowd, right? Talk about chutzpah. Fortunately, the hungry mob waiting in line did not pounce on her and beat her to death with her own shoes (as much as we all may have wanted to), and she left with her lobster. 

Finally it was our turn.  Local time, 1:30.  I was handed my fresh lobster roll, with pickle, chips, and soda (to their credit, the truck folks threw in the soda and chips for free--normally an extra $3--as a thanks for everyone's patience).  It looked good, if a little small -- or maybe that was the hunger talking.  Coworker, friend, and I made our way past the line of envious lobster seekers to a bench in the square to sample the sandwiches. One bite and we all agreed that they were good, but we weren't sure they were quite worth an hour and a half wait (or $15).  On the positive side, they didn't scrimp on the lobster -- the roll was full of huge chunks.  And after further thought, I can say definitively, the sandwich is at least as good as something you can get from any sandwich shop in general proximity to Farragut Square (except for the Greek Deli).  For me, at least half the fun was the sweet anticipation and weeks of hype.  Even my slight panic as I heard of the line growing around the corner was enjoyable for me.  It's all part of "the thing."

As far as food trucks go (heck, as far as any sandwich shop goes, too), this was a success of epic proportions (400 lobster rolls were sold today!), and I can't help but think that today's climax leaves a sad denouement for the five trucks that have yet to debut.  But to me, the climax occurred weeks ago when I tried the global food truck, Sauca.  On par with street food from other countries (and as good as food you'd get in a sit-down restaurant), this innovative sandwich truck gets two thumbs up from me (try the pork banh mi -- you won't be disappointed). 

So while I haven't embraced the cupcake craze (yay, alliteration!) that has taken the city by storm, I can get on board the food truck trend.  And if you're looking for lunch in all the wrong places, may I suggest checking the truck tracker or meeting me in Farragut Square for some truly innovative meals on wheels? Happy lunching!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Listen to Your Inner Voice

I've been having a bout with a recurring stiff neck, so I was telling WH that I probably needed to go back to yoga.  He agreed that it would probably make me feel better, but he also reminded me of a little something he likes to call "The Seven Steps to Get Deleted From My Cell Phone."  Just one of these things on its own won't get a person deleted, it's a process that builds on each step, so one must check all seven boxes in order to be deleted.  Let's examine them for a moment, shall we (in his words):
  1. Start taking yoga.
  2. After taking yoga for a while, a regular plastic yoga mat will not do.  You have to order one from India made out of natural fibers with a handmade mat carrier.
  3. Then become a vegetarian.
  4. After that, start talking about how much better you feel now that you've given up meat.
  5. Start talking with your "inner voice" and blinking slower than normal people. [This one was my particular favorite, as he demonstrated the "inner voice" as being soft and calm and sort of whispery, with the slow blink.]
  6. When you catch me eating a burger, you look at me with disgust and say, "Meat is murder!" and instead invite me to lunch at an Indian buffet.
  7. Invite me to join you. I'm all for athletics, I love sports and a healthy lifestyle, but don't invite me.  I respect your right to do all this stuff, but I do not like to be invited and I don't like to join!
yoga dog
Image courtesy of istolethetv via Flickr.
So you can imagine my concern about starting yoga again.  For the record, we don't know any people like this (I'm not sure there even are any people like this), so I'm not sure where this graphic portrait comes from.  And I'm pretty sure my love of bacon cheeseburgers will save me.  That and the fact that my inner voice is that of a loudmouthed Italian. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Crisis Communications

No one would ever accuse anyone in my family of being cool under pressure.  We are a group that would crack under the stress of a flat tire, leaky pipe, or broken glass.  We are the family that would, quite literally, cry over spilt milk.  So when we are faced with a real crisis, we crack like an egg underfoot. 

Little Sister is known for her hospital visits.  The girl loves the emergency room (don't we all?).  It's been quite frequent (though not recently) that she would end up in the hospital for a three-day stay after becoming dehydrated.  When asked, as she was being hooked up to an I.V., "Why didn't you just drink some water?" she would answer, "I forgot." 

One time, when my father fell extremely, critically ill in a hotel on a trip to West Virginia (during which he declared, "Please don't let me die in West Virginia!"), my mother, out of her mind with worry, grabbed an innocent bystander who had come to help by the lapels and shrieked in his face, "Help him! Help him!"  All this was while my sister ran up and down the hall screaming like a fire engine. 

Lest you think I'm a cool cucumber, there was another time, when I was about 15 and my mother was trimming hedges with one of those toothy trimmers that looks a bit like a crocodile, when, in an attempt to keep the cord from getting shredded, she sliced off the end of her finger.  I was sitting on the patio reading a book at the time and as soon as I saw the blood and heard the delcaration, "I think I cut my finger off," I snapped into action.  I got on the phone with 911 and started screaming for my father.  Meantime, my mother insisted that she did not need an ambulance and for me to get off the phone.  Calm as long as I had a job, once I hung up with 911, I lost my cool.  Without anything to occupy my panic, I ran through the house and then into the back yard screaming bloody murder.  It was like Friday the 13th, but without Kevin Bacon (yeah, he was in that). I can still remember my father driving away to the hospital as I hyperventilated and sobbed in the kitchen.  Good thing she hadn't really cut off her finger, just nicked the tip of it.  (And they left me at home in charge of my sister--or maybe she in charge of me.)

Another time, LS and I were in a car accident just before Christmas.  I was driving and she was in the passenger seat when some kid ran a stop sign and plowed into the side of my Jeep.  Neither of us killed, I jumped out of the car and started screaming at the kid who hit us.  That's when my sister declared, "I can't feel my legs."  The infinite voice of reason, I snatched the kid's cell phone and screamed in his face, "You better have a good lawyer because you paralyzed my sister," as I called 911.  Fortunately she'd just hyperventilated, which had caused numbness in her extremities.  Either way, we got a ride in an ambulance and a visit to the emergency room (score!). 

And while I've highlighted my family's shortcomings  in the art of remaining zen, I definitely win the prize (yeah, it gets worse than the finger and car accident stories).  In fact, there's one story that has gone down in history as a family classic.  We were vacationing in Mexico one summer when my mother stepped in a drainage ditch on the grounds of our hotel and twisted her ankle.  She gasped, moaned, and declared, "I think I broke my ankle," while my father, sister, and I looked on.  Always one to snap into action (lest I dissolve into panic), I ran to the front desk of the hotel.  "My mom broke her ankle, I need help," I declared as I grabbed a bellman and ran back to the scene of the crime.  I returned to see my mother hobbling down the path, leaning on my dad and my family looking at me like I was from space as I ran back with the (also running) bellman.  My mother was furious (and amused).  After convincing the very concerned bellman that she was okay, he finally went back to the front desk.  And thus the merciless ribbing began.  Nearly 20 years later, and my family still tells me to go "get the bellman" when someone skins a knee or breaks a nail.

So, fine, I'm not all that great in the face of a crisis.  I get weak at the sight of blood.  I scream at innocent (or not so innocent) bystanders.  I might be too quick to call 911.  And even though I've had first aid training from the time I was in fifth grade, I still dissolve into a puddle at the first sign of emergency.  I can scream louder and panic better than anyone you ever want to meet.  Sure, this may not put me in the running for "Best Under Pressure," but when the stakes are high, you can always count on me to call a bellman.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Midday Misadventures

As I've said before, riding the bus during the off hours is an unparalleled treat.  I'm not sure why that is, but I had a fun ride yesterday afternoon.  It started before I even got on the bus, as a matter of fact.  I was waiting on the bus stop when a generic looking man (slacks, button down, gray hair, about 55) walked up to the bus stop and, after standing there for a few minutes, declared very loudly to no one in particular, "Don't forget, beer gives you charisma!" He then walked away.  I exchanged a puzzled look with the other woman on the bus stop and went back to my magazine. 

Then the 42 arrived and the real adventure began. The driver, a woman, was the most cheerful I've ever experienced (though I'm pretty sure her charisma wasn't due to beer consumption).  She was giggling and chatting with passengers as they got on at each stop.  At one point, a young woman crossed the street against the light in front of the bus.  Our driver said, with a giggle, "Outta my way, Barbie!" before carefully passing the intersection. This was about the same time that a woman with a gigantic backpack (with her bike helmet attached to it) swung into the seat next to me, whacking my knee with the helmet in the process -- without apologizing.  I was sitting there fuming for a bit, but the cheeriness of the driver was contagious.

In fact, the best part of all was her singing.  As passengers were disembarking, she would sing, "Thank you, thank you, thank you for riding . . . Metro!"  It was really endearing.  And it was hard not to smile.  It got me thinking, what if we had cheerful, smiling (singing even) drivers driving the bus and train every day.  What a difference that might make in the city. Can you imagine it?  Passengers smiling at each other, saying thank you, apologizing for stepping on your foot or slamming your knee with their bike helmet, or maybe even just not scowling unconsciously as they sit on the bus.  It would be a whole other kind of city. 

But as I got off the bus, the chorus of the "Thank You" song echoing in my head, I realized that even if we had cheery drivers who sang and smiled, someone would find something to complain about. That was even easier to imagine . . . can you hear them? "I had this awful driver today who sang the 'Thank You' song all out of key so badly my ears were bleeding," or "My dog just died, and that driver had the nerve to smile at me . . . the outrage!"  And so I realized that, the same way the 100-degree heat makes us appreciate the air conditioning, the surly drivers and rude passengers make us appreciate the cheerful ones all the more.  Maybe they can't all be delightful all the time, but for my part, I'm going to try to do better and not let the surly sour my mood, but don't expect to catch me singing the "Thank You" song any time soon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The REAL Real Housewives of D.C.

I don't actually know any of the  "Real Housewives of D.C."  In fact, nobody I know knows any of these purported "real" women.  This ridiculous program, which premiered tonight, claims to highlight a unique set of people indiginous to our city.  But I know real housewives. I was raised by one.

This moniker, housewife, has a lot of connotations to it.  They are simple, they are shallow, they are desperate.  Except that they aren't.  In fact, I find myself continually disgusted by the Bravo version of what a housewife is.  This definition has reduced something honorable, something amazing, to a trite, ridiculous caricature.  If we are to believe what Bravo is feeding us, via D.C. or N.J. or Atlanta or the O.C., a "housewife" is a vapid, empty, shrew whose only concern is where she might find her next pair of Jimmy Choos or blonde pool boy.  But my version, the real real version of a housewife is so much more than that. 

The real housewives of D.C. are the women I was raised by, grew up with, and spend time with by choice.  My mother, who is one of the most vibrant women I know, is a housewife.  She chose, during the height of feminism in the 1970s, to give up a very lucrative career to stay home and raise my sister and me simply because she cared about the kind of women we would become.  She spent time with us, playing house, teaching us to read, making us lunch, driving us to school, and shopping at Sears.  She did not spend her time at high-end salons, shopping at Neiman's, and looking for the next big party.  She is a real woman, like many real women across the country.  She made a career of being involved in my sister's and my education, via the PTA and the Board of Education, because she so believed in the people who were teaching us to be a part of society, to be better people. 

My mother isn't the only one.  I have long since entered the time where my friends have become wives and mothers.  And we have chosen the paths of our mothers -- as vast and varied as that is -- to work and live and give and raise children in ways that will bring about a generation that is better than our own.  Because that is our life's work.  One of my friends is an attorney who had an adorable baby last year.  She has continued to work while staying devoted to her husband and child.  She does not crash White House parties or pretend she is a polo heiress.  She is a brillant attorney and a committed and amazing mother.  She has demonstrated strength like I have never seen. 

And I am a housewife of D.C. So, I'm sorry, Bravo, but a housewife of D.C. is not some empty, useless bobblehead who sits at home waiting for the next big sale in Georgetown.  I work 40+ hours a week, I come home and make dinner, I meet my friends for fun after work, and I like to think that I make the world a better place each day that I'm here.  I don't make a million dollars.  I don't shop in Chevy Chase.  And the only pair of Manolo Blahniks I have, I bought at Filene's on a super duper discount (no, really, super duper!). 

The one thing that we all have in common is that we are thinking, feeling, real-life women who are much more than the caricature that is presented on prime time television.  So, when you think of the Real Housewives of D.C., please, think about who we really are and don't let the b.s. that makes T.V. ratings dictate your vision of what a housewife is.  We are stay-at-home moms, we are working moms, we are childless women, and we are women who have empty nests.  We are U.S. Senators, Supreme Court Justices, we work at CVS, and we drive your bus.  We are women who are proud of who we are. But the one thing we are not is empty, shallow, party crashers who have nothing but a falsified cheerleading record to offer.  We are the real (housewife) thing!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Let's Go Surfing Now . . .

I almost killed someone on the bus today. No, it was not some grand case of bus rage.  I was aisle surfing when, during a sudden stop, I went flying into a lady seated near me.  It was early, I hadn't had my Diet Coke rush yet, I was hauling my usual 47-pounds of miscellaneous purse-stuffs, and I foolishly took my hand off the pole to scratch a mosquito bite on my elbow.  In short, it was a perfect storm for a near-miss bus-icide.  I nearly knocked my fellow passenger out with my bag before landing in her lap. Luckily, I'm agile like a cat!

I would say I go aisle surfing at least once a day.  For the uninitiated, aisle surfing is when you're stuck standing in the aisle of the bus or train.  You can hang on to one of the poles for dear life as the bus careens around corners, but you'd darn well better brace your feet too.  This usually involves standing with your feet at least shoulder-width apart (wider if there's room and you can claim the space).  I can't speak for others, but I always wear sensible shoes during my commute for exactly this reason.  Tottering in the aisle is hard enough in flat shoes, but add a pair of four-inch spike heels and your balance ratio is significantly decreased (it's simple physics--I think, I never took physics because I was a literature major). 

And speaking of four-inch heels, I always marvel at those women who wear their fancy shoes for the commute.  Besides the fact that it's really quite treacherous to ride the bus or train in hot shoes, walking the city sidewalks can really do a number on a pair of heels.  I've walked the tips off of more heels than I care to count going to and from work.  It can get expensive having those little rubber tips replaced, which is why I don't anymore.  But at least I can walk in them.  Have you ever seen that poor soul who just can't manage a pair of heels, try as she might?  This woman teeters around, head flung forward, rear stuck back, stomping heavily down the street with her ankles wobbling, her equilibirum thrown all off by the height of her shoes.  You know this woman, the one who looks like a stork on crack. 

Now, put the awkward Stork Woman in the aisle of the bus and you've got a recipe for disaster.  Trust me, I know.  I've seen this poor lady attempting to aisle surf at least once a week.  And at least half of the time she ends up either taking someone out with her 24-pound handbag or sliding down the aisle into another passenger.  I'm not saying that one shouldn't wear heels during her commute, in fact, I say more power to you if you can manage it.  But, ladies, can we at least concede that there are a good portion of us who really should just wear a sensible shoe (and please take note, a sensible shoe does not include any of the following with your skirt suit: sneakers, those weird monkey shoes with toes, or espadrilles--and yes, I did recently see some sad woman wearing espadrilles on the bus)? 

Tyler's Toes
Photo by Dru Bloomfield via Flickr

To sum up, when surfing in the aisles, sturdy yourself with a wide stance (if possible).  Hold onto the pole (and not your BlackBerry, iPod, Kindle, mosquito bite).  Wear sensible shoes (no monkey toes, please).  And for the love of all that is good and holy, watch where you're swinging that small piece of luggage that we all insist on lugging to and from work each day.  Commuting's dangerous enough without the harm we can do to ourselves.  Surf's up!