Friday, December 30, 2011

Wise Crackers

I know it's probably hard to believe, but even someone like me who specializes in words, both for fun and professionally, sometimes gets a little tongue tied.  It's the verbal equivalent of waving your bra as you walk down the street or flashing your undies at passersby as you wait for the bus.  Last week, I was at it again in a rather public way.  Let me set the scene, if I may . . .

My family always hosts a big Christmas Eve party for family and friends, and this year was no different.  My mother has a group of friends that she's had for years, the Church Ladies (not called this because they are actually patrons of a particular religious establishment, but that's what they're called), who always come to our party.  There's food and drink and great company . . . you know how parties are.

So anyway, during the party last week, everyone was mingling and nibbling and generally making merry.  I looked over at the coffee table and noticed that a new plate had appeared with crackers and an interesting looking cheese.  I looked at my mother and asked, maybe a little loudly, "What's with the crackers?"  She looked confused and her fellow Church Lady, Jean, started ribbing me about it.  Church Ladies #2 and #3, Ginny and Candy jumped in next.  "Ey, yo, what's wit da crackers?" they teased. "No, no," I stuttered and stammered, "what's with the crackers, you know what's with them?"  I didn't really help my case much as I tried to explain myself.  I think I finally managed to (really badly) explain myself, but it didn't matter.  The fire had been lit. 

WH, never wanting to miss an opportunity to get a laugh at my expense, responded with, "In most western countries it's customary to serve cheese with crackers," which set the group off again.  We couldn't go 10 minutes without someone saying, "What's with the crackers?" much to the confusion of the guests who weren't privvy to my gaffe.  I never did find out what was accompanying the crackers (which was what I wanted to know, but had asked so poorly), but I did supply the catchphrase for the evening. So it turns out, what was with the crackers was a side of wiseass.  As it should be, especially on Christmas.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Crime Doesn't Pay

I was watching TV just now and saw a teaser run across the bottom of the screen "Tonight at 11: Hamburglar Arrested." Could it be? Could the most notorious hamburger thief of all time have finally met his inevitable end? I started to think about the Hamburglar and what might've lead him to his life of crime. I came up with a couple of possible sources:

  • His name. Hamburglar. Much the same way as a mother who names her kid Trinity, Starla, or Diamante must know from the start that her daughter is going to grow up to be a stripper, the Hamburglar's mother must've known that he'd turn to a life of crime. It's right there in his name: BURGLAR. No brainer.
  • Poor verbal skills. Perhaps the Hamburglar, despite his inauspicious moniker, had a strong beginning in the world. But he didn't start talking as fast as the other kids, and when he finally did, all he could manage was a weak, "Robble, robble." His parents lost faith, stopped paying attention to him, didn't attend teacher conferences, and sent a neighbor to pick him up when he was suspended for bad behavior in the third grade. A downward spiral until one day, he lived up to his name.
  • Wardrobe. Once he began living up to his name, his mother stopped buying him Garanimals and he had to start wearing the hat, cape, and mask. It was all downhill from there.

And so, today, after many years on the lam, causing trouble for Ronald McDonald and Grimmace alike, the Hamburglar finally met his ultimate fate. I suspect Mayor McCheese will use this as his campaign platform in the upcoming election.  Robble, robble indeed.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Reflections on a Decade

I don't generally feel the need to commemorate September 11.  But it's inevitable that it brings up memories.  We can all remember where we were and what we were doing on that fateful day.  I was teaching seventh grade that year and a week away from major surgery on my neck.  I remember sitting in the classroom -- we were doing practice testing that day -- as another teacher came in to tell me that a plane had hit one of the Trade Center Towers.  A horrific accident, it must've been.  Until the news came of the second plane, and, later, the Pentagon and the crash in Shanksville, Pa. 

I remember watching my kids taking their tests and thinking how their world was about to change, how they hung in blissful ignorance for just a little longer than the rest of us.  Then the calls started to come to the classroom from the main office, "Can you send Nathan to the office, his mother is here to pick him up?"  "Layla's dad is here to get her." "Please have Carlos get his things and come to the office to go home for the day."  Slowly the students trickled out of class, confused and confusing those left behind. 

Later on, in the hallway, one student's parent, a woman from another country, had arrived to pick up her son.  As they were leaving, he asked what was going on and her reply was, "We have to go home.  They're bombing here like they did in our country."  I don't think it hit me until that moment just how horrible this had become -- and how all too commonplace it was for some.  That was the moment that my heart broke for the country we had been, and in a moment that day, the country we had become. 

In the following days, we saw the reawakening of the American spirit.  Without question, people streamed to the disaster areas wanting -- needing -- to help.  Blood donations were at a record high.  Everyone wanted to do something.  Anything.  We were down, but not out.  The American spirit was -- and is -- still strong.  And that is what I remember when I think of that day -- the strength of our country's spirit.  When it didn't matter your ethnic background, politics, color, religion, or beliefs . . . because we were all American.  We are all American -- and it did not break us.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recess

I'm back.  Did you miss me?  Did you even notice I was gone? Wait, wait, don't answer that.  I took a brief summer haitus -- I figured if Congress can do it, I can too.  I've been participating in straw polls, kissing babies, giving speeches, invoking the Constitution, and eating corndogs at a variety of state fairs.  Oh wait, that wasn't me . . . that was Michele Bachman.  Sorry.  I often get the two of us confused. 

My summer wasn't quite as exciting as Michele's.  First off, I managed to make it another year without experiencing the joy that is the corndog.  I wasn't asked to give any speeches, and the only time I even came close to invoking the Constitution was one time when WH asked me to pick up my pajamas and I said, "It's a free country. I don't have to."  It didn't really go over so well, so I think I'm going to have to brush up on my knowledge of the Amendments so that I can find the one that allows me to leave my jammies unfolded on the floor and use it to my advantage. 

Otherwise, WH and I didn't do much at all.  We trekked up to the family beach house in Rehoboth, which is always fun.  We have a favorite little place on the boardwalk there, Gus & Gus'.  It's a greasy little Greek food stand with the best french fries you'll ever have (don't fall for the glitz and glamour of the Thrashers across the street, trust me).  I can also vouch for the fried chicken, steak and cheese, and BLT.  I don't know if they have corndogs or not, but the next time I'm down there, I'll be sure to check it out. 

There was the earthquake (another one!), which thwarted a work trip to New York.  Lucky me, I pulled up to Union Station just as everyone was streaming out, like in one of those horror movies from the 50s.  I ended up having to walk home to Adams Morgan from there, and by the time I got to about Thomas Circle my suitcase had gotten one flat tire, so I had to drag it like a maniac the second half of the way.  Needless to say, it was not a good day and I was not happy to have missed my dinner reservation at Les Halles. Harumph.

There was a hurricane (sort of), which provided fantastic entertainment in the form of the local news coverage.  Channel 4, the NBC affiliate here, oughta win an Emmy for their ability to cover the storm for 24-hours straight without taking themselves too seriously.  I should know, I watched the full broadcast.

And that's about all I've been up to while I've been away from the blog.  Pretty tragic, huh?  I know my image purports to be a glamorous life of travel, fast cars, and fast women, but this summer was a bit of a bust.  What kept me away from the blog?  Reruns of Law & Order.  But since my summer recess is over, I'll be back and (hopefully) churning out the stories that put the asses in the seats.  So c'mon back now, ya hear?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Local Celebrity Swag-ger

I often joke with one of my coworkers that I am a "Local Personality." I've been writing this blog for a year and a half and on Twitter just about as long.  I blog and tweet about inanity, but often tweet to and about businesses and restaurants that I like.  My favorite food truck, @DCEmpanadas often gives me a little something extra when I get my lunch, sometimes I'll get free drinks at a bar, and I one time I even won a $50 Friendly's gift card.  These are the perks of local celebrity, I suppose [please note the sarcasm].  And besides, who doesn't like free stuff?

Speaking of free stuff, last night I was invited to opening night at Arena Stage's production of Oklahoma! by their publicist.  I was so flattered to be asked (as media -- imagine, me, a lowly flack by day invited as media*!), and happily accepted.  Normally WH would come along with me, but I know musicals are not his thing so my mom came with me instead.  The evening started off a little rocky.  As we sat outside eating a pre-theater dinner at Cafe du Parc (one of my favorites, btw), a bird pooped in my lap.  Only me, right?  Fortunately our waiter was quick with the club soda and an extra napkin and I was able to (mostly) de-poop-ify myself.  Hey, at least he didn't poop in my wine.

After dinner, we were off to the theater!  I hadn't been to the Stage's new location, which was huge and gorgeous!  There was not a bad seat in the house.  I met the fantastic publicity team (thanks to Kirstin, Julia, and Alexa!) from Arena Stage, and collected my tickets. 

I hadn't seen Oklahoma! in years, and had forgotten just how innocently cute it is.  If you haven't seen it, it's the story of coy Laurey and her not-so-coy cowboy paramour, Curly in the turn of the (last) century territory that would be come Oklahoma.  They were great, but the supporting cast of Aunt Eller, Will, Ado Annie, and my favorite, Ali Hakim, really made the show.  The songs were familiar and fun, but seeing the show in the round was a special treat!  I especially enjoyed Nehal Joshi's hilariously fraught Ali, the Persian peddler, who kept getting himself into trouble with the ladies.


Ali Hakim (Nehal Joshi) and Ado Annie (June Schreiner)
courtesy of Arena Stage
As with all Rodgers and Hammerstein stories, there's a little drama -- in the form of creepy fieldhand Jud -- which is resolved lickety-split, just in time for the happy ending!  If you're around this summer and need a little innocent sweetness, take a vacation in Oklahoma! (playing now through Oct. 2) -- you won't be sorry!

*Note: I am not media.  I'm not a theater, restaurant, or fashion critic--though I do love offering my opinions, solicited or not.  However, if you would like to promote your business by giving me free stuff (I'd be more than happy to weigh in on Wicked or Citronelle, for instance), I'll happily indulge.  It will go a long way to proving to my friends and family that I actually am a Local Personality, which really is the most important thing.  I promise, I won't let it go to my head.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fucking Spongebob

Today at happy hour WH and I got into a familiar conversation.  You see, he's no fan of Spongebob.  In fact, he has full-on malice towards him.  Here's how it went down:

WH:  Fucking Spongebob.

WT: Huh?

WH: You know, they said Tom and Jerry were too violent for children.

WT: Who are they?

WH: They are they.   You know, they said the guy who made Alice in Wonderland was on acid.  They said talking animals set children up for unrealistic expectations.  They said it's not proper those animals don't have pants on.  They said all of that. 

WT: It kind of sounds like the teaparty.  Are they the teaparty?

WH:  They are they.

WT: Ok.

WH:  So with all of that corrected, they came up with the idea of Spongebob.  He's proper.  He wears pants -- which are square -- and it's unlike Alice in Wonderland, made by a sober person.  It's a fucking sponge who wears square pants and lives under the sea in a pineapple and drives a fucking hamburger car.  Now tell me, which one is on acid?

WT: Yeah.

WH:  Why is he wearing pants?  I don't get it.  Oh, and his enemy is calamari?  He's an evil calamari.

WT:  Oh.

WH:  And what does Spongebob eat?  I don't know.  I'm pretty sure he's not taking a bite of his own car.  He drives a cheeseburger.  He fights a calamari.  And I don't have any clue what he eats.  Maybe he eats soap.

WT:  Soap?

WH:  He's a sponge!  And why in the world does he live under the sea in a pineapple.  I dare somebody to find a weirder situation.

WT:  Yeah.

WH: What about a knife who lives in outerspace and in order to survive he needs to cut space cheese.  Maybe someone else can come up with a better idea, but it's still not as ridiculous as a sponge under the sea living in a pineapple.

WT:  True.

WH:  And what kind of pants do you put on a knife?  Yoga pants?  Straight jeans?  Tights?  And definitely the knife has fish eyes -- one on this side, one on the other side.

WT:  Probably.

WH:  I can imagine the face of those sweatshop workers in China, making those Spongebob toys, wondering what the fuck are these.  Why are American kids playing with these.  I'm telling you, they are ruining the kids.

WT: I guess.

WH:  Chinese children are doing math problems and playing with nunchucks in their spare time, while American kids are watching Spongebob and sucking down a Big Gulp.  And we're hoping to catch up with China?!?

And on and on.  I never realized how passionate one man could be about a cartoon character.  Though I tend to agree.  I'm not sure who they are, but if they came up with Spongebob, they should probably be in rehab.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pen and Paper

When I was a kid, I loved to write and receive letters.  I would find any excuse to write someone a letter, just in the hopes that I'd get one in return.  In third grade, my Brownie troop was matched up with another troop across the country in California and we got penpals.  This was in the early 80s, so there was no email or Skype . . . just good old fashioned paper and pen.  I couldn't have been more excited!  My penpal, Stephanie, lived in Long Beach -- a strange land that meant surfers and beaches and suntans.  What did I know, I'd never been to California.


Projeto 12 x 12 - Tema: Hobby
Photo by Happy Batatinha via Flickr

For years we corresponded, through the ups and downs.  She was a couple years older than I, living with her mother and brother.  Years hence, my mother had a meeting in Anaheim, not to far from where Stephanie lived, and I got to tag along.  And we met for the first time in 10 years of having exchanged letters.  But our friendship didn't end there.  It only got stronger.  In those years, long before the internet, two little girls connected with each other with only our words and nobody thought it strange at all.  In fact, I remember people marveling at the fact that we had stayed in touch for so many years and how remarkable it was that we had finally met.

In the past year or so, I've cultivated a number of robust online relationships.  Through this blog and Twitter, I've connected with a variety of people on a whole range of topics.  The D.C. area is ripe with events for bloggers and tweeters and other ways to catch up with online people in "real life".  But for some reason -- stigma, perhaps -- when I tell people that I've met friends online, it's not met with the same quaint enthusiasm as my third grade penpal -- even though the nature of the connection is quite similar.  Two strangers, connecting over something they have in common using nothing more than written communication.   The same way I connected with another little girl on the other side of the country nearly 30 years ago. 

Stephanie and I are still in contact, though not often by pen on paper anymore.  We're Facebook friends and exchange emails from time to time. For all the internet has given me, it's also taken some of the excitement out of it.  No more going to the mailbox, anxiously waiting for a letter.  Or waiting for the latest photos to arrive.  In an instant, I can see what's new simply by checking out her profile and photos.  And so it is with my new online friends . . . there's no delay.  I can find out what's going on with the click of a mouse or the sending of a text.  In fact, I expect it -- we all do.  Yes, the internet has given us a lot . . . but there's a part of me that really misses some of what we've lost.  I think I'll sit down tonight and write her a letter, just like old times, and hope I get one in return.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Boldly Go Where No Ham Has Gone Before

Every family's got one -- that one aunt who names her shoes; the eccentric uncle who talks about himself in the third person; or the granny who drinks a little too much and flashes back to her childhood in Kansas.  And we've got one in my family too.  A second cousin from the deep south is that "one" in our family.  So, what makes my Southern Cousin such a character?  Let's put it this way . . . shortly after I got engaged, SC informed me that he was not only a florist, but also a wedding planner.  He offered to "come up a week before the wedding" and plan everything for me.  In a week. During one of his previous visits, he had shared all about his nursing career.  He's had as many careers as there are letters in his name (maybe more), and some at the same time. He lives in a small town with his Momma, who he talks about incessantly, and takes care of (in between his shifts at the many jobs).  

What got me thinking about this was the recent anniversary of my grandfather's death and subsequent funeral.  In order to understand the events that transpired, you have to understand that my grandfather was a southern boy himself.  And one of his favorite things in the whole world was country ham. Whenever our cousin would come up for a visit, he'd bring ham for "Uncle Buddy" (my grandfather). During the visit in question, my grandfather was not doing too well.  In fact, he died in the middle of the week of SC's visit.  And the grand tragedy was that he never got to have his last taste of country ham.  This caused our cousin great consternation.

On the day we all gathered at the funeral home to say our goodbyes and greet the guests, the family arrived about an hour early for a private viewing.  When Southern Cousin arrived, he came in with the country ham under his arm.  One of my uncles noticed it (how could you not . . . it was a ham, after all) and asked him why he had it.  "I'm fixin' to put this ham in Uncle Buddy's casket." And with that, the collective jaw of the group dropped.  "What?" someone managed to say. "I'm fixin' to put this ham in Uncle Buddy's casket," he repeated.  And then he did.

I know people leave all kind of mementos to be buried with the deceased.  I left a tube of lipstick with my grandmother when she died.  But this is the first casket-ham I've ever heard of (and thus far, the last).  But there it was, just for my grandfather. 

I know this because while the rest of the family was inside the room with my grandfather, I was sitting in the hallway outside, as I am not one who wants to see someone's body in order to say goodbye.  While the rest of my family was in the parlor, I sat waiting.  Just then, these two big mafioso-looking goombahs in dark suits who worked at the funeral home came out and stood in the doorway.  They took no notice of me as they had this conversation:

Goombah #1:  Are we still closing the casket before the viewing?

Goombah #2:  I think so.

Goombah #1: Did you see the ham?

Goombah #2: Yeah. What are we doing with that?

Goombah #1: I'm not touching the ham. Are you touching the ham?

Goombah #2: I'm not touching the ham. 

And on they went.  I couldn't figure out why these two huge dudes, who spend all day around dead bodies were so afraid of a little ham.  Sure it was weird, but it wasn't something you didn't want to touch.  Maybe it was because it wasn't embalmed.  Maybe they were vegetarians.  Maybe it's because country ham smells worse than a dead body.  I don't know. 

Of course, I couldn't wait to share with the rest of the family the ham drama when they came out into the hallway.  A few at a time they filtered out and before going back into the parlor.  And as they did, I regaled them with the saga of the ham.  Before long, everyone was buzzing about the ham.  It was a highly inappropriate moment of levity at an otherwise somber occasion. 

The next day, during the funeral, family members got up to share their memories of my grandfather.  It was sad . . . until SC got up.  The first words out of his mouth were, "My Uncle Buddy loved country ham. . ." I have no idea what the rest of the eulogy said because I was laughing so hard, I had to pretend to be having a coughing fit.  A ripple of similarly disguised laughter went through the first few pews where the rest of my family was sitting.  This just egged SC on, "Yes.  Y'all know he really did love that ham."

The rest of the funeral was pretty run-of-the-mill, with no further cured meat appearances.  But afterward we went to where my grandfather would be interred, and as far as we know, nobody had removed the ham.  And that's the story of how my grandfather went to his eternal rest with a ham in his casket.

Epilogue:  When WH and I got married later that year, Southern Cousin came to our wedding and brought with him his momma, a case of SunDrop, and a country ham.  I guess old habits die hard.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rain of Shame

We all know that things happen to me that don't happen to other people (evidence here, here, and here).  It may or may not have to do with the fact that I'm always walking or riding the bus somewhere.  The following story involves both.  One time, years ago, I was walking to the bus stop from my apartment.  It was a well-populated bus stop just north of Dupont Circle.  As was often the case, I was running late and the bus was just about to pull away as I rushed up.

I reached into my purse to pull out my SmarTrip card as the bus driver stopped and opened the doors.  As I dug in to get my card, in a way that would only happen to me, my hand caught on something, and I whipped out a nearly-full (but already opened) box of tampons.  In slow motion, as is always the case with these things, they flew into the air, raining down feminine protection on my head.  It was at that exact moment that all 63 people on the bus turned their heads to the window to see what was going on.  People on the opposite side of the bus got up to look out the window.  If it had been a plane, it would've tilted to one side.  I hurriedly scooped up as many of the tampons as I could and put them back in my purse.  The bus was waiting, though, so as I was hurrying aboard, I still had a bouquet of tampons in my hand.

The Tampon Fairy
Photo by ecastro via Flickr

I walked down the aisle to a seat, and it was like that scene in Forrest Gump where he wants a seat on the bus but they were all taken.  And there was no sweet-faced Jenny to take pity on me.  There I stood, in my shame, in the middle of the aisle while every last person on the bus laughed and pointed at me with their eyes.  I learned my lesson that day . . . when taking feminine protection to work, carry it in a separate bag from your SmarTrip card.  Or just buy it when you get to work instead.


(It's in French, but you get the point.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

To Catch a Mockingbird

The other day while I was at work, WH called to inform me of a rogue crow who had gotten himself into a little trouble over at his parents' building.  It seems that the little guy (I'm assuming it was male, but feel free to reassign the gender in your reading of this tale) had gotten himself wedged in between a window and where the laundry room was.  He was being dutifully watched by two of his crow pals, who were squawking up a storm.  This went on for a day or so, watched carefully by WH's mother.  Finally, they could take it no more so WH went to building management to see if someone might help free the bird.  They would not.  This prompted a call to Animal Control, who couldn't indicate when they might arrive, so WH took matters into his own hands.

He took a broom and went down to save the little fella. The little bird was freed, all the while under the watchful eye of his two crow buddies.  By this point, Animal Control had arrived and informed WH that the buddies were in fact the crow's parents and he was a juvenile.  Fortunately, after a little while for the bird to "shake it off," he was fine and able to fly off with his parents.  This, of course, reminded me of my own adventure in the animal kingdom. 

Back during the Summer of Paula, I was living at home with my parents.  One night, I heard a squeaking and a scratching coming from the ceiling above my bed.  I figured it was probably a squirrel, and forgot about it until the next night when I heard it again. This went on for a few days, when I finally was able to convince my dad that there was something up there that needed eradicating.

One hot June Saturday, my dad propped up the ladder and climbed into our attic.  There he found a nest with four baby mockingbirds and a ripped screen where their mother had gotten in.  The nest was in the far back corner of the sweltering attic, and the birds were parched.  He plugged the hole so the mother couldn't get back in a peck his eyes out while he rescued the babies, and attempted to crawl into the corner to catch them.  Already pretty mobile and nearly ready to fly, the babies had other plans.  They flapped and hopped and went even further into the reaches of the attic.  My dad couldn't get to where he could reach them.  After a few choruses of "goddammit!" I was recruited to help.  You see, I have what we in the business like to call monkey arms.  They are longer than normal, and skinny, skinny, skinny.  They can reach into crevices only reachable by broom handles and fishing poles.

I changed my clothes and wriggled my way into the attic.  It felt like being sucked into a dryer.  Armed with garden gloves and a cardboard box, I chased the babies around the unfinished attic with my monkey arms.  Taking care to not bang my head on a beam or an exposed nail, I managed to catch three of the four birds and send them back down the ladder.  I could hear the mother bird squawking up a storm outside.  I took a breather to get cooled off and regroup my plan to save bird #4.  A headstrong little fella, this bird was laboring under the delusion that the 147-degree attic would make a delightful permanent home.  What could I say, he was young and foolish and needed to be taught a lesson.  I'm sure in retrospect, he would agree with me that this wasn't one of his better decisions.

Baby mockingbirds outside Klaus
Photo by Jason Riedy via Flickr

Up I went, armed with my cardboard box and my weapon of choice -- monkey arms.  It was a battle of wits and wills that I was determined to win.  So was #4.  We squared off, like to boxers in a ring.  He with the advantage of speed and knowledge of the territory, while I was fully hydrated and outweighed him by about 100 times.  He looked me in the eye and braked left.  I was nearly atop him when he faked right and hopped over a beam.  It's all a blur of feathers and insulation, but eventually I did prevail.  Cursing, I reached out to grab him, and he surrendered to my garden glove.  Once inside the box, he quieted and settled in for the ride down the ladder and into the bushes with his brothers and sisters. 

Once triumphant, I was a good sport and didn't lord it over the bird.  He was only a baby, after all, and didn't have the advantage of my wisdom.  I gave him a little talking to as I released him into the bushes . . . encouraging him not to be so stubborn in the future, as he would likely not find a neighborhood cat so friendly and helpful as myself.  I'm not sure what happened to #4 and his siblings, but I'd like to think they made their home in a tree somewhere and carefully avoided all attics.  And maybe, just maybe, somewhere in mockingbird land, there's a statue erected in my honor.  I'm pretty sure I'm wearing garden gloves in it and the length of my monkey arms is grossly exaggerated, but this is the cross a hero has to bear.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Case of Mistaken Identity

I was out for drinks earlier this week and my sister relayed a story to me that is too good not to share.  As I've mentioned, I had (and am still getting over, if we're to be honest) Royal Wedding Fever last week.  It seems that I was not alone, because as my sister was cutting a client's hair (she's a hairdresser-duh) last Saturday the topic came up.  And this is where the story gets good.

The client, a young woman of about 24, was talking about the fashions (and the hats, oh the hats!).  Tongues were already wagging about Princess Beatrice's ridiculous chapeau.   Here's how it happened:

Princess Beatrice via Jezebel

Client: So I saw Fergie's daughters at the wedding.

Sister: Oh yeah?  I heard about their hats. 
After a little more conversation about the hats, the conversation turned back to Fergie. 
Client:  Isn't Fergie too young to have kids that age?

Sister:  I don't think so.  She must be close to 50 by now.

Client:  Really?  Wow.  She looks great for her age!

Sister:  She really does.  It must be Weight Watchers.

Client:  What do you mean?

Sister:  Oh, she used to advertise for Weight Watchers. 

Client:  I don't remember that.

Sister:  Well, it was a few years ago.

Client:  Wow.  She has really been busy.  I mean, when did she find time to sing with the Black Eyed Peas?  

And that's how it happened, folks.  How my sister met the biggest idiot in Washington, D.C.  Kinda makes you fear for our future, doesn't it?  She went on to explain to her client the difference between Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and Stacy Ferguson, the singer who peed in her pants during a concert.  Then again, I'd pay good money to see Sarah Ferguson do a lavish musical number with the Black Eyed Peas wouldn't you?
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York via NY Post
Not to be confused with:

Stacy Ferguson, The Black Eyed Pea via NY Mag

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You Give Me Fever

I have Royal Wedding Fever (RWF).  Far as I can tell, it's not fatal.  It has several symptoms, and based on recent events, I believe it is contagious. Unless you've had your head in a bag for the past few weeks, the Royal Wedding (and the inciting cause of RWF) refers to the nuptials of Great Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton.  The media frenzy surrounding the wedding reached fever pitch a couple of weeks ago, by my estimation.  It's about this time that my symptoms started to manifest themselves.  Prior to this point, I had shown some early signs, but it was unclear whether I'd develop full-blown RWF.

This all started in November when Wills (as those of us who are close to him call him) announced his engagement to Catherine (Kate, to her friends).  It was at this point that I started having delusions of booking a trip to London to "witness" the nuptials.  I began monitoring flights across the pond, but was quickly reigned in by a sensible husband (and, truth be told, budgetary constraints).  My own good sense did not prevail, as the early stages of RWF were already at work.

I have eaten up the dish about who would design the dress, the babble about whether or not Kate would wear a veil or a tiara or flowers in her hair, and other blather about carriages, cars, and horse allergies.  When it was revealed that the Royal Wedding would take place at 10:00 a.m. London-time (that's 5:00 a.m. D.C.-time, kids), I made the (very astute) decision to take off of work that day so as not to miss a minute of the festivities.  I racked my brain trying to think of ways to mark the day . . . what would be an appropriate way to celebrate on this side of the pond?  And then it hit me . . . what's more British than tea? Nothing, that's what.  So I made reservations for WH and I to go to high tea the afternoon of the wedding day.  What a fitting tribute, right?

I have been much maligned for my excitement . . . but, curiously enough, our intimate little tea party-for-two has turned in to tea-for-ten.  Parents, friends, friends-parents . . . come one, come all to my Royal Wedding party.  Beware, you'll catch RWF too, if you don't watch out.

From what I can figure, the symptoms of RWF are these:

  • You feel the need to wear a hat. Preferably with feathers.  You consider becoming a "hat person," who wears hats to various occasions, including, but not limited to weddings, showers, polo matches, and tea parties.

via Kate Middleton For The Win (a must-see for the snarky Middleton fan)
  • You agonize over your Royal Wedding breakfast menu.  What will you serve on the big day?  Will it compare to the buffet lunch that Windsors will be serving? 
  • You find yourself making Kate/Diana comparisons and getting indignant when someone says, "She's no Diana," or "I think she's kind of boring." Yes, someone actually said that. True story.
  • You force your unsuspecting family to discuss the merits of the Royal Wedding during Easter dinner, whether they want to or not. 
  • You are late to work each morning because you are captivated by the latest developments in Royal Wedding news.  The hat (yes, hats again!) to be worn by a Royal Wedding guest was the featured segment on Good Morning America earlier this week. And I had to see it.
  • Once you get to work, you are unable to concentrate on anything because you are planning your tea party, wedding-watching party, and wondering what juicy tidbits the media has been able to dig up in the minutes and hours since you last were in front of a television.  
  • You add the "Official Royal Wedding" website to your bookmarks and obsessively check it every hour on the hour to see what the news is.  You may or may not also add @ClarenceHouse to the list of folks on Twitter you follow. It is the Prince of Wales' official Twitter feed after all. 
  • You insist that your sister-hairdresser make your hair look like Kate's, no matter how much she laughs at you, going so far as to demand the shine.  When she tells you Kate's hair looks like that because she probably uses a $75 conditioner, you outwardly scoff, but secretly consider purchasing one.
  • You annoy friends, coworkers, and family members with your incessant chatter about "the big day."  When they roll their eyes or stop responding to your text messages, you pretend not to notice and simply forge ahead.
  • You lose three Facebook friends a day because of your hourly updates to your status about the Royal Wedding plans (and/or news items about Will/Kate/Pippa/Harry/Diana/Westminster Abbey/hats).  You don't care and keep posting.
  • You have Royal Wedding dreams.  Usually where you sit near the banks of the Thames with fellow revelers as Will and Kate pass by, happily waving from their coach.  Even though the route they will take goes nowhere near the Thames (minor details).  And then there's that one where you're actually, miraculously, invited to the wedding. All three parts. And you hope you may never wake up from it . . .

If you are suffering from three or more of these symptoms, I'm afraid you've got RWF.  The cure, of course, is to watch the Royal Wedding on Friday, and perhaps several times over the weekend.  Have a spot of Earl Grey (lemon or cream, never sugar) and a cucumber sandwich, and enjoy the ride.  Give in to it . . . because to fight it would simply be uncivilized.

Friday, April 22, 2011

As Simple As Black and White?

Yesterday I got an issue of Ebony magazine in the mail.  At first I thought it might be a mistake, but no, right there in black and white was my name and address printed on the label.  This struck me as odd.  Aside from the fact that I didn't order Ebony, I'm also not black.  This got me reflecting on the many times in my life when, perhaps, it wasn't so clear what my origins might be.  Let me explain. 

Growing up, my neighborhood was incredibly diverse.  Across the street was a family with a Haitian father and Chilean mother (the parents of my oldest friend, the Lady Doctor). Next door to us was a Jewish family and next door to them, a Palestinian family. And there my family was, in the middle of all of it.  I can't think of a better way to grow up . . . and I think the uniqueness of our neighborhood and the collective memories we all share has contributed to the fact that I'm still close friends with many of the kids I grew up with.

I've known my best girlfriends since we were little kids (and in the case of the Lady Doctor, babies).  So it never struck me as odd that I'm the only white girl in the group.  The first time anyone called it to my attention was when I was in college.  I had a picture of all of us in my dorm room and a friend said, "Do people look at you weird when you go out with them?"  I didn't understand the question.  Eventually the lightbulb came on and I realized that perhaps not everyone came from a neighborhood that looks like the United Nations. Since then, my, ahem, lack of melanin has been a source of entertainment for us for years.

One summer, shortly after college, The Girls (as we've called ourselves for years) and I went to Chicago for a long weekend.  One night, we went to some party at the House of Blues . . . and I was the only white girl there.  Who cares, right?  I sure didn't.  But shortly after we got there, the only other white guy in the place came over to us with his friend.  They talked to us for a bit, before my pale-faced brother asked, "Uh, excuse me, but what are you?"  A lady?  A Washingtonian?  Catherine Zeta-Jones?  I knew what he was getting at, but playing dumb was so much more fun.

That same summer, my friend the Policy Lawyer's Mother discovered an article in a local African American-community newspaper about distinguished young people who had graduated recently. Guess who appeared prominently in the article?  (Turns out it was written by a friend and colleague of my mother's, who thought it would be nice to mention me.)  PLM's (joking) response?  "I didn't know WashingTina was black."  Neither did I.

Another time, shortly after a summer trip to Mexico (so I was much less melanin-challenged than usual), I was walking to my car at the Silver Spring Metro, and a man walking in the same direction struck up a conversation with me.  He was about my age, friendly enough, and black.  It didn't occur to me that he thought I was black, too.  That is, until he said, "I have to know, what are you?"  Again . . . what is the correct answer to that question?  A Wiccan?  A trapeze artist? A member of the Junior League?

My friend the Policy Lawyer used to work for UNCF, so WH and I were invited to a fundraiser they were putting on one year.  When we got there, we got raffle tickets.  It was a lovely event, down on the SW Waterfront in the old 701.  It came time for the raffle, so we got out our tickets.  There was all kinds of stuff, though I don't remember what most of it was.  The grand prize was a leather UNCF bomber jacket.  Three guesses who won.  I walked timidly to collect my prize . . . again, the only white girl in the room.  Thank goodness I had been passing all those years.  I decided that my father, who never met a free T-shirt he didn't like, would find this jacket the ultimate in free stuff, so I ordered his size.

This brings me to the fact that I'm not the only one in my family who may or may not be white.  For years my parents have been members of the NAACP.  They used to go to their annual dinner every year.  Shortly after the dinner one year, my father received an invitation letter to join the black alumni association at American University (he actually is an alum there).  We began to wonder if everyone else knew something that we didn't. 

WH often tells me I'd make a perfect spy because I can blend in to any group.  When I'm with his Iranian family, nobody would know I'm not Persian.  Frequently in our Adams Morgan neighborhood, someone will ask me for directions in Spanish.  And I like it.  It's nice to fit . . . especially when so many people never get to fit.  I'm lucky, I fit anywhere.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Independence Day

April 15 is tax day for most of us here in the U.S., but for my WH, it means a lot more.  Twelve years ago today, he arrived here from Iran.  He told me this story:

When I found out I was getting a green card, I didn't know what would happen. I had to wait to find out when my appointment at the U.S. Embassy would be.  They tell you they’ll send you a letter to tell you your package has arrived, and when your interview would be, but I didn't trust it.  I used to call the U.S. Embassy in Ankara every day to find out if my package had arrived.  And I’m so glad I did, because I never received a letter.  The last time I called, they told me that my package had arrived and that my appointment was set. Then I went to Turkey.  I had lived there 10 years earlier for a year, hoping for a Humanitarian Parole visa and I didn't get it, but my memories in Turkey were still good memories.  Ten years later I went back to get my green card and stayed in the same hotel.  Walking the same streets, going to the places where I used to hang out, it was such a great feeling.  Going back to somewhere I knew before – it was wonderful.  I have been to Turkey three times, and I only have good memories there. 
Finally the day arrived to go to the embassy, and I was so nervous.  I had all my documents very well organized.  I was so nervous.  Many times I went with high hopes to different embassies – Switzerland, Turkey, Germany – and was rejected.  Always the answer was no.  In fact, in Zurich, I had an invitation from a Marine Corps general that my brother, who was in the Marines at the time, had gotten for me, and I was so sure I was going to get the visa.  I’ll never forget it.  The counselor said, "I don't know who you are, or why you have this invitation, but I'm not giving you a visa." I was nine years old. 
This time I didn't have high hopes. All I had were worries.  All kinds of worries.  When I got to the embassy, I walked in, looked at the American flag and saw the Marine standing there and it reminded me of my brother.  I wasn’t able to see my brother when he graduated and I hadn’t seen him in ten years.  Every step I took, it felt like one step closer to him.  

American Flag
Photo Courtesy of PMillera4 via Flickr

At the embassy, it's exactly like the DMV – you get a number and you sit down.  The counselors are behind bulletproof glass like at a bank.  When it was my turn, I got called up to the window.  The counselor was a Turkish-American lady, and she was only a little bit older than me.  She looked at my number and asked me, "Do you want me to talk to you in English, Farsi, or Turkish?" And even though I didn’t really speak English very well, I said, “English,” and gave her my package.  She looked at it and said, “This is the most organized package I've seen all week,” which made me very happy.  But I did have one document missing.  When that happens, usually you have to go and come back . . . and it takes six months or so before you can come back.  Luckily, this lady was so nice and she liked me, so she told me to get the document faxed to me and just come back tomorrow.  I got the document, but I didn't sleep that night. I had everything I needed, but I still didn't sleep that night.  
The next day, I went back to the embassy, which was in walking distance from the hotel.  I had the fax in my hand, and put it in my jacket.  But then I was afraid it might fall out of my jacket, so I held it in my hand.  Then I was afraid someone might steal it from my hand, so I put it back in my jacket.  I kept putting it in my jacket and taking it back out, the entire way to the embassy.  I got there and gave the package back to the same woman. Then I had to pay, exactly like at the DMV.  I paid and everything and boom . . . they gave me a package. A sealed package.  That’s how you get your green card.  (When you get to the United States, you come with that giant package and give it to immigration in the airport and then they send you your actual green card later.)
Walking out of the embassy, holding that package, it felt like winning the lottery.  Looking back, I think there were very few times in my life when I felt truly happy deep in my heart where it shook my body.  When I had that package and walked out of that embassy, it started raining, and I put the package under my jacket.  I never enjoyed rain that much in my life . . . just walking in the rain.  
I know lots of people get their green cards, but I had been waiting all my life for this moment. Millions of people come to the U.S. every year.  I know I wasn’t the only one.  It was just that I had waited for it for so long.  I hadn't seen my brother for 10 years. Finally I could start my life where I wanted to be.  But first I had to go back to Iran and get ready – that was in October.  I came to the U.S. in April.  For those few months, packing up, figuring stuff out, slowly breaking all the barriers.  It's interesting – many people come here and still have a home where they came from, but I had to figure out how to pack my life into two suitcases and bring it with me.  It's like when you move to a new house and you throw out the stuff you don't want and the stuff you don't need, and save the stuff you don't want to throw out.  Except this is beyond that.  You get to the point where all the stuff has sentimental value, all the clothes you love, and still you have to make a choice which things you want to take with you and which ones you want to leave behind.  
Saying goodbye to everyone I knew – my family, aunts, uncles, cousins, my friends that I grew up with – and going somewhere that I didn’t know anybody, created a ball, a rolling ball of mixed emotions inside my stomach.  On the one hand, I was leaving everyone I knew, but on the other hand, I was coming to the U.S. and getting to see my brother, who I hadn't seen in 10 years. I was very happy, and very sad.  Really mixed emotions.  It wasn't Facebook time, where we could all be in touch between two worlds.  We were out of touch for years.  It exactly felt like dying, it was so painful.  And the happiness felt like being reborn, the way it was powerful.  From the airport in Iran, getting on the plane going to Amsterdam, coming to the U.S. – traveling across the universe to get here – I died and was born again.  It was another life I had there, and yet I remember every second of my past life.  
All the time during the trip, I kept my package with me.  It was close to my heart. I was so nervous when I got to Iranian airport.  My soul was inside of that package and I had to protect it.  While I was in Amsterdam waiting to get on the plane, a man in a suit came and sat next to me. He started asking me questions, like “Did anyone pack your bag for you?” and “What do you have in your bag?” and other things. I was nervous and my English wasn’t very good, so I mixed things up.  The man started to test me, “But you said this . . . you said that. Your stories don’t match.”  My hands started sweating.  Fortunately, a lady who worked in the airport walked by who just happened to be Iranian, and saw what was going on.  She explained to the guy, and he let it go.  It was very interesting, and as I looked around, this happened to many people.
When I landed in the United States, it was exactly like a new world.  I saw the American flag again and as I got off the plane, my heart was beating like crazy.  I was so happy, but so afraid that something, anything, was going to go wrong and I would have to go back.  In fact, I was so nervous I left my passport in the airport.  It wasn’t until two or three days later that I realized that I didn't have my passport.   When you get to the airport, they take you to a little room, interview you, and take the package. It takes about 45 minutes or so, and then they let you go.  I went and got my bag. When the doors opened, I started looking at people. I saw someone who looked like my brother, but he was shorter than I remembered.  The last time I saw him, I was just 13 and I was shorter than him. By this time, I was slightly taller than he was.  His hair was longer – no more military haircut.  But he had that nose – the same nose – and I knew, that was my brother.   
I’ll never forget the feeling the next day of walking out the door, after my brother went to work. It was a sunny, clear, warm day.   I remember thinking, I can't believe I'm here. And as I walked around Dupont Circle, I realized that I could walk for hours and hours and not bump into anybody I knew.  I could guarantee that.  That’s the first thing that really bothered me.  But I changed it for myself.  Now I can’t walk down Connecticut Avenue without seeing someone I know.  It’s a new world, a new life, but it's mine finally. Today this is my home.  Where I was before is the old life.  You can’t un-die and go back.  I'm in a new chapter.  I will not go back to chapter one.
Many people see July 4 as Independence Day, but for me it's April 15 -- my second birthday. 

Happy Second 12th Birthday WH!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Not-So-Fine Dining

I love the news. And I hate the news. I like to know what's going on in the world, from politics to world news to celebrity garbage, I want to know it all -- even though it alternately makes me laugh and despair for society.  So imagine my surprise when I was sent this story by my friend the Policy Lawyer earlier today.  Something ridiculous that I had not seen!  And on one of my favorite topics, too, public transportation!  Complete with video!



I especially like the part where the Spaghetti Eater gets up to fight, but doesn't stop eating her spaghetti (I'd like to know where she got it, that it was so good she just couldn't wait till the fight was over for her victory meal.  And while we're at it, I also wonder where they were going that there was a full three minutes and 52 seconds between stops).  The article goes on to discuss etiquette on the subway . . . which is something I know all too well. My favorite part of the article is the description of the video:
"What kind of animals eat on the train like that?" says the woman across the aisle.
The diner snaps back with an epithet, and the exchange quickly degenerates into a fistfight.
"Chill out!" shouts a man as he tries to pull apart the two combatants.
Apparently the kind of "animal" who eats on the train is in the same class as the kind who starts a fistfight on the train.  And the poor "chill out" man. He was probably just trying to get home from work, maybe to a spaghetti dinner of his own, cooked by his long-suffering wife.  I know just how he feels, having witnessed a full-on picnic on the bus not too long ago.   But what I don't understand is how someone could even want to eat on the train or bus. I mean, think about it . . . it's hardly the dining room at Citronelle.  Bumpy, jerky, smelly.  It does not make for a dining experience (or at least a positive dining experience, anyway).  Even on its best smelling days, transit still mostly smells like a barn.  And I don't know about you, but I've been to a barn or two in my day (hard to believe, I know), and they also are not someplace where I want to enjoy home cookin'.

Maybe that's the real reason Metro doesn't allow eating and drinking on the train . . . they're trying to save us from ourselves.  Because who wants to get deep into a meal, then get a whiff of feet, urine, or unidentified excrement of some sort and spontaneously become The Sick Passenger?  Or worse, publicly berated and then socked in the head?  And besides, as the article puts it, you get a free "dose of weird" with every fare -- because what else would entertain us during our daily commutes?

What's your take on the Subway Spaghetti video?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Really Stepped In It

Last week my mom sent me an email with the subject line "Poop."  This isn't particularly odd, considering the sense of humor in our family.  I opened the email to see this video:



Sure, it was funny, but the point was, as my mother pointed out later when she posted the video to her Facebook page, that it was a "WashingTina moment."   I had forgotten about it until yesterday when I saw this article in The Washington Post.  And that got me thinking about poop and something that happened to me in elementary school.

I was in the third grade and it was a spring afternoon.  The weather had gotten nice, and I was wearing a pair of white sandals that went with my outfit.  We were having story time (or whatever it was called) in the afternoon, sitting in a circle, listening to our teacher read us a story.  And I had to go.  I asked the teacher, got the pass, and slipped out the door.  The girl's bathroom was maybe three or four doors down the hall.  As I pushed open the door and walked into the bathroom, I stepped in something.  Something that shouldn't have been there.  Poop.  I slipped out of my shoe, leaving my cute sandal stuck in the mystery poop, and hopped down the hall to my classroom.

I don't remember the exact details of what happened next, but I will never forget the conversation that followed.  My teacher, Miss Massey, looked at me and knew something was up.

Miss Massey:  What happened to your shoe?
WashingTina:  It's in the bathroom. 
MM:  Why?
WT:  Because I stepped in poop. 
MM:  Where?
WT:  In the bathroom. 
MM:  What was it doing there?  
WT:  I don't know.  
MM:  Was it yours?
WT:  No. 
MM:  Who's poop was it?
WT:  I don't know.
MM:  How did it get there?
WT:  I don't know.  
I can't remember what happened next, but I'm guessing a janitor was summoned to clean up the mess and retrieve my shoe.  We never did find out the owner of the mystery poop, either.  But one thing's for certain, I never wore those shoes again.  I guess my mom was right, it was a WashingTina moment . . . so where are my royalties?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Let's Be Reasonable

This week's spring weather prompted us to open the windows in our condo.  Yesterday, WH was in the kitchen opening the windows when he asked me if I had read the warning on our screen.  I hadn't -- in fact, I hadn't even noticed that there was a warning. This is what it said:
 
WARNING: SCREEN WILL NOT STOP OBJECTS/PERSONS FROM FALLING THRU WINDOW.
SCREENS ARE DESIGNED FOR REASONABLE INSECT CONTROL.
DO NOT REMOVE THIS LABEL.

 He wasn't so concerned with the poor bastard falling from the window (who, incidentally, looks like he's had a run in with Batman -- POW!). 

It was the "reasonable insect" that got him.  He was really incensed about it.

WH: What is an unreasonable insect? Is it judged by size? Or is judged by aggression? Either way, it seems like whatever they expect it to be, it can go through the metal screen. 

WT:  I guess so.

WH:  And what is a reasonable insect?  Is it reasonable because you can reason with it?  "Sorry, we don't like your kind around here . . ." and they leave?  Is it because they're cute and you don't mind them around your house?  Whatever the reasonable one is, it seems like I don't mind having the reasonable insect around.  It's the unreasonable insect that I don't want around, so what's the point of the screen?

WT:  You're probably right.

WH:  I can just see the cockroach sitting on the windowsill, looking in.  What happens, I offer him a sugar cube and say, "I'm sorry, you're not welcome here. Please leave," and he says, in an Irish accent, "Righty-o!" and leaves?  What's an unreasonable insect? He just gives you the finger and comes in anyway?

WT:  The cockroach has an Irish accent?

WH: Sure, why not. 
WT: Okay.
WH:  Are we living in the Amazon?  Rude, ugly, dangerous, dirty . . . that's unreasonable?  Seriously, let's look at this.  When all those lawyers sit around in a confernece room to write the liability sticker, what did they think is a reasonable insect? I'm not joking now.  Maybe they thought a ladybug is a reasonable insect, it's cute.  Maybe a butterfly is a reasonable insect, it's pretty, you get happy when you see it.  Now, same way, let's think about what they consider unreasaonable.  Tarantula? A very large hissing Madagascar cockroach? Again, I want the unreasonable insects to stay out.  If something can chew through the metal screen and come in, I guess it's a good thing the screen cannot stop a person jumping through, because I will jump out. They come in, I go out. In fact, what would be your reaction if you're sitting and enjoying a warm sunny day and all of the sudden you see an unidentified being sitting on your screen chewing the metal to come in?  What would you do? You can see some hair, long antennae, but if it's up here [we live on the fourth floor] you know it can fly, because it's up here out of nowhere, and it can chew through metal.  If lawyers came up with that warning, they must know something we don't know.  It has to exist.  I live in Washington, D.C., not the Amazon rainforest.
He's got a point.  Who writes these things?  And what is it that they actually mean?  They're sitting in a conference room somewhere that probably doesn't even have windows, coming up with this very poorly worded warning.  It really isn't clear.  Sure, we get it from the graphic that the screen won't keep a human in, but it might've been more helpful to have a graphic showing what exactly the screen might keep out.  It must be clear to them, but not so clear to us.  At any rate, I'm going to think twice before opening the windows from now on. I don't want to have to reason with any insects. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

To Tweet, Or Not To Tweet

I have a lot of friends who don't use Twitter, let alone understand what it is or how to use it.  I even have a few Facebook holdouts that have yet to buddy up.  And that's okay . . . it's simly not for them -- and maybe it's not for you.  For those not in the know, Twitter has been used for all kinds of cool stuff, including online discussions, networking, self promotion (hello, Charlie Sheen), and even organizing protests (human rights blogger and online activist Wael Abbas used it to communicate about conditions in Egypt during the recent protests).  It can also be used for charity.  Wondering how?  Read on. 

Next week marks the D.C. Twestival . . . a Twitter festival (get it?!?).  My friend Ms. Rasberry is on the planning committee, and asked if I'd do a little publicity for it.  Here's how it works, in her words:

It’s an event that is designed to utilize social media in order to raise awareness and funds for charitable organizations. This year’s DC Twestival benefits FAIR Fund, an organization committed to ending human trafficking, particularly of youth. As the mother of two daughters, this issue speaks to my heart. People tend to think of human trafficking as an “elsewhere” problem, but it’s very much a problem in the United States as well. All too often we hear of young girls going missing and many of them have been taken by pimps and abusers and forced into prostitution and servitude. The majority of human trafficking is for the purpose of sex. We must do something to stop this! After a lengthy process, FAIR Fund was selected as the DC Twestival beneficiary. I’m glad to be a part of it because it is most definitely a much needed organization.
This year’s event takes place on March 24 at DC venue, Shadowroom. If you’re in the DC area, come out and help support a worthy cause. It’ll be fun and, as if you needed anymore prompting, I’ll be there! Tickets on sale here.
It's a FUNdraiser -- for a really good cause.  So even if you aren't Twitterly-inclined, you can still participate, because who doesn't love socializing and supporting charity?  It's the perfect combo.  Will I see you there?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's A Small World

I've said before how D.C. is a bit of a small town.  It's a fact that I'm reminded of on a regular basis.  I run into people I know all the time -- at least once a week.  It's not often, though, that it's someone I haven't seen in nearly 20 years.  Certainly the advent of Facebook has made chance encounters after years of seperation a thing of the past, but there are always those people who aren't on Facebook or you can't seem to find online. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was leaving the ladies room at my office (my organization shares its space with another larger organization) and saw a strangely familiar face.  But it couldn't be could it?  It quickly left my mind until later the next day when I was looking up an email address for one of the folks with whom we share our office.  A name on the list was the name of the person I thought I had seen.  Still, there's no way, was there?  A quick look online at LinkedIn, and I was certain it had to be her. 

When I was in high school, I spent the time when I wasn't playing sports or participating in afterschool activities babysitting for the Little Girl and the Little Boy.  She was five and he was a baby.  I had been sitting for them off and on since the Little Girl was two.  Through their parents, I met several other families for whom I babysat, but the Little family was always first on my list.  I became a bit of a babysitting mogul . . . because I had a car and my parents didn't mind if I stayed out late if I was watching kids. In fact, I didn't have to get a "real" job waiting tables or at the mall like most of my friends, because I was able to finance my lifestyle with babysitting.  I think the Little family and their cohorts fully funded my recreational activities my freshman year of college.  Anyway, when I left for school, I left the kids behind, though I would occasionally come back for a visit.  As is the way these things happen, I lost touch with the Little family and went on with life.  I've often wondered what became of the Little Girl and the Little Boy who were two of the brightest and most well-behaved kids I've ever met.

And then . . . there the Little Girl was in the office bathroom.  I sent an email to the address on our office list, thinking that maybe she wouldn't remember me (after all, we hadn't seen each other since she was about seven-years-old).  But of course she did and we caught up later that day.  Yesterday we had lunch together, which was slightly mind-blowing, as having an adult conversation with someone with whom I used to discuss the finer points of The Little Mermaid seemed strangely out of context.  I quickly got over it though, and it was such a delight to see that she had turned into a poised young lady (yeah, I know, I sound like an 87-year-old grandma). She told me that I hadn't changed a bit . . . since I was 17!  We chatted like old friends . . . or new friends.  And isn't that the beauty of the small world?  Running into someone, years hence, and realizing that you have made a new friend of an old friend?

Has anything like this ever happened to you?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Search and Recovery

It's been awhile since I've blogged.  This is a great disappointment to me.  Part of this stems from good old fashioned Catholic Guilt, and another part stems from the fact that I always got "that speech" when I didn't do my homework.  You know the one -- "We're so disappointed in you.  We know you can do better. Why would you wait until the last minute?"  And so on.  I can hear it every day that I don't blog and I flash back to elementary school. 

When I was in third grade, after having to miss recess who-knows-how-many times for not getting my work done, I was diagnosed with a learning disability.  When told I would have to go to special classes, I vowed to my parents that I was quitting school.  Fortunately my parents decided not to indulge an eight-year-old drop-out, and I went to the classes in the afternoons a few times a week to work on my motor skills.  This consisted of stringing beads -- in fact, we often would "race" to see who could string more beads in some specific increment of time.  It was highly stressful.  (Yeah, go ahead and laugh. But thanks to Ms. Bradley's techniques, I can now type 120 wpm.)  I'm sure we did other stuff in that class, but all I really remember is stringing beads.  Whatever else we did, it worked. 

I was released from special ed classes and sent back to regular classes relatively stigma-free.  Unfortunately, though, nobody ever worked on my lack of organizational skills (or at least, I never went to special classes for it).  This problem still rears its ugly head periodically in my life.  This week, in fact, I've been trying to organize some video interviews for a conference at work and for the life of me couldn't get my shit together.  I spent the better part of the afternoon today wrestling with an Excel spreadsheet.  My desk looked like a bomb exploded on it.  It was not good for my self esteem. 

This reminded me of another time, in the fourth grade, when I had let my desk get to a biohazard level of disgusting.  I literally could not find a pencil, my lunch, or the kid who sat next to me because the desk was so full of junk.  Apparently my teacher had noticed, because after lunch, just before we started math lessons, as she waited -- and waited -- for me to hunt down my homework (or worksheet, or eraser, or my Safety Patrol Belt), she came around and watched me root through the junk.  That's when she snapped.  I mean, teaching 30 nine-year-olds all day long would get to anyone, but throw in a packrat/hoarder/Fred Sanford-clone and it was enough to send her over the edge.  And then . . . it happened.  She took my desk, tipped it over, gave it a little shake, and dumped the contents all over the floor.  I'm pretty sure we found the Lindburgh baby in there.  I definitely found an old lunch.  I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the floor rooting through the papers and culling the herd for stuff that wasn't necessary. 

If a teacher did this to a kid today, she'd probably be sent to Siberia to mine for quartz or something and the kid would have to go through grief counseling, but I'm pretty sure I deserved it.  Besides that, when your mother is a very active PTA parent and spends 24-7 at the school, you can't get away with anything.  (In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if my mother told her to do it.  I really was a mess.)  You might feel bad for me, but don't.  Mrs. Williams was a great teacher, and one of my favorites.  And I got to miss math that day.  I'm pretty sure it was the day we learned how to balance checkbooks, because I still don't really have that skill.  But what I do have is that little angel hovering over my shoulder telling me what I should do all.the.time.  And today it told me that I should blog.  So I am.  And I'm going to tell you the same thing I used to tell my parents every Sunday night before the diorama that I had two weeks to complete was due . . . "I promise I'll do better.  I did read the book. And math is boring!" But you know what, I always did well with writing . . . so, yeah, I'll do better.  Really.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Code Orange

Cupid's arrow
Photo by adactio via Flickr
In honor of Valentine's Day, I'd like to share a cautionary tale of love and woe.  Last week, I caught up with some former coworkers for dinner and drinks.  While we were there, we ran into another former coworker who had a "friend" in tow.  This "friend" had just opened up a business in the area and was looking to do some promotion.  I've long wanted to do some freelance consulting, so I gave him my card.  Little did I know what was to come . . .

The following day, at my desk, I got a phone call from The Friend.  He wanted to set up an appointment to discuss what I could help with.  And then he dropped the other bomb. He really wanted to get the contact information for one of my friends who was at dinner that night "for business purposes."  Since she hadn't specifically given it to him, I said I'd have to ask her first, or he could find it on the organization's website.  I pinged my friend and she said she was fine with me passing along her email . . . but it was a busy week, so I promptly forgot about it . . . until Friday when I received a "WTF" email from her.  It seems The Friend had contacted her.  Rather than explain, I'll share the text (only slightly modified to remove any identifying details) below, because it's simply too good not to share:
Greetings! I hope this finds you well. It was a pleasure meeting you the other evening at [the restaurant], I was the gent sitting with [your colleague]. I write to you with a dual purpose.

On the one hand, I was taken off guard with the light flashing through your eyes. I couldn't help wondering through my meal. Fleeting? Inner radiance? For verification and security reasons in these erstwhile days of code orange, I sauntered back over to your table in the shadow of [your colleague] and sure enough, the light shone through again! [Redacted], you must be a beautiful person inside considering the glow about you, gorgeous allure and beauty notwithstanding. So you'll understand it was with pent up burning poetic fury that I departed the restaurant without being able to speak with you a little. Too many onlookers in too close proximity. For that, I profusely apologize.
In order to capture the spirit of unconditional positive regard, may we meet for lunch or dinner? There is Cuba Libre or Thai something or other in Georgetown or whatever suits you. If that's possible, I'll be in Washington this coming Sunday, Monday and Tuesday....have appointments Tuesday AM through around noon, at Congress of all places, for an unrelated matter. And I'm not even sure how people get acquainted these days.

On the other hand, I made inquiry with [your colleague] regarding having [my business] project publicized to all [of your organization's members], those across the nation who may travel to Washington DC. I admit he did not suggest you specifically, but he did suggest I contact someone here in DC [in your office] that may be able to direct me to the right person. Well, in closing, I hope we can talk. Thanks again for your time.
WTF indeed.  My friend was wearing a ring on her finger, so there was to be no doubt about her status -- and we both thought we remembered that he also sported "attachment jewelry."  Her response, ever classy, but also abrupt:
I think brevity is necessary here. I am married, as I believe, so are you. Please do not contact me again
To which The Friend responded:

I'm confused. What would I be contacting you for, again? Read your message. Har har, I gotcha. But you still make a pleasant impression and I hope you're able to smile about this overall!..... Unless, like your friend implied, you prefer that my call represents an augury of harrassment, stalking etc... Writers have been accused of talking too much. Good bye.
My friend and I had a good laugh over this, while still both confused.  Sure, she does have a radiance about her, but our table was hardly lit by the fire in her eyes that evening.  Maybe he was he had one too many caipirinhas or something and imagined that the candle on our table was in fact her eyes.  Either way, he started seeing stars where there were none.  I don't know.  I've taken it as a sign that my freelance career can wait. 
 
So, whether you're celebrating this Valentine's Day with a loved one or spurning it in a chocolate-induced haze, I hope you enjoy!  And if you happen to see this particular cupid's arrow coming your way -- DUCK!

*And in honor of Valentine's Day, please share any of your disasters from the front lines of looooove . . . I would love to hear them!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Remembering A Hero

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.
                                                                   --Dr. Seuss

Sometimes it's hard to believe how fast time passes.  I don't really feel any older.  High school feels like yesterday . . . when in reality, I graduated almost 18 years ago.  I was reminded of the passage of time today when I saw a friend's Facebook post remembering one of our teachers.  Mr. Campbell died 17 years ago today, and yet it feels like it just happened. 

Mr. Campbell was one of a kind.  He taught sociology in a way that was so far ahead of its time.  He always treated us like adults, even when we didn't act like them.  He was honest and thoughtful and tolerant beyond belief.  No other teacher tried to understand us, tried to know us, tried to really reach us, the way that he did.  I had the pleasure of taking his class my senior year.  It was a class that was so coveted, students would fight to get placed in it.  In fact, I can remember receiving my schedule the summer before my senior year started.  I had selected the class, but I wasn't registered for it when my schedule came.  I didn't even wait 24 hours before I was up at the school arguing with my guidance counselor to get in the class.  Mr. Campbell was so good that his reputation preceded him.  It was the class to take. 

Our school was incredibly diverse, boasting students of all colors and nationalities, and Mr. Campbell made sure we were aware of it.  His classroom was plastered with posters about various issues -- homelessness, HIV/AIDS, diversity, you name it -- and they reflected his personality.  He was the most open-minded, accepting person I had ever met before or since.  He required each of us to complete community service long before it was a requirement for graduation.  In his class, you could disagree with him or other students, but it never got personal (which is a feat of epic proportions with teenagers).  And he loved us all.  And we loved him back. 

One day during our third period class, Mr. Campbell solemnly (and if I'm going to be honest, nervously) told us that he was HIV positive.  He was honest and treated us like the young adults that we were . . . never sugarcoating any of it.  We were shocked, but it didn't make us love him any less.  At the end of class, as the bell was ringing, each of us lined up to express our support and share a tearful embrace with him. The entire school -- the entire community -- rallied in support around him.  Later that year, during a unit on death and dying, we visited a funeral home and cemetary where Mr. Campbell talked to us frankly, and showed us what he had picked out for his own funeral.   

We honored him at graduation, and when I went away to college in Ohio later that year, he promised to keep in touch.  We exchanged letters from time to time, but there's one particular thing that I will never forget.  I was lounging in my dorm room one fall afternoon my freshman year when the phone rang.  I almost didn't answer it because I was getting ready to take a nap, but when I did, I heard a familiar voice on the other end.  "This is Mr. Campbell!  We're at the student center . . . come out and meet us!"  I was stunned.  "My student center?  At my school?"  "Yes, come over here and meet us!"  I put on my shoes and went running across the street where I saw Mr. Campbell and his partner John waiting for me.  It turns out that they were driving from Indiana back to D.C. when he saw the sign for my school and told John, "Oh, that's WashingTina's school.  We can't drive by and not stop!" So they did. 

They had bought an armoire, which was wedged in the back of the car, so I squeezed myself in next to it and off we went for an early dinner.  I didn't care -- it was the best surprise ever.  We had a great meal, catching up.  It was just the dose of home that I needed being so far away from D.C.  The three of us has our picture taken in front of the student center that day, which I still have framed in our apartment. 

Mr. Campbell got sick and was hospitalized while I was home at Christmas, so another friend and I went to visit him.  It was the last time we ever saw him. He died in early February, 1994.  At his memorial service more than 600 family, friends, colleagues, and former students showed up to remember our hero.  The board of education issued a proclamation commending his teaching and the impact he had had on the community.  There were many that spoke about him that day, students whose lives he had impacted.  Another teacher from my high school gave a speech that embodied Mr. Campbell's legacy.  The movie Schindler's List was just out that year, and the speaker told us that we were Mr. Campbell's list -- that our responsibility was to carry his legacy forward, to teach the way he taught us, to love each other, and to tell his story.  I'm so happy to have known Mr. Campbell, to have felt his influence, and to have learned from his example.

I've kept in touch with his partner, John, over the years, and when WH and I were married, he and his current partner were there with us. It was Mr. Campbell's birthday that day, and I'm certain he was there with us too.  The circle of Mr. Campbell's influence keeps growing as all of us who knew him embrace each other, and open our arms to those who never did.  I'll never forget what he taught me and the legacy that it is my responsibility to pay forward.